Iraq Is Easy Next to Italy

Cell-phone mogul Naguib Sawiris won big in risky markets; Europe could be tougher

Naguib Sawiris likes to think of himself as a Middle Eastern Richard Branson. Last year the Egyptian entrepreneur started Iraq's first mobile-phone network. After just six months, his company, Orascom Telecom, already had more than half a million subscribers, earning $95 million before taxes and interest. Like Branson, Sawiris is a music lover--he calls himself a "party animal"--and has a taste for risky ventures.

"It's one of our most profitable operations," says Sawiris, 50, sprawled on a leather chair in Orascom Telecom's ornate Paris office. "I take a lot of risks, but calculated risks." Now Sawiris stands on the edge of...

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