World's No 1 investor eyes up Europe

When the world's most successful investor wants to buy into your company, people get interested. Quickly. Mexican 72-year-old billionaire Carlos Slim Helu wants to grab almost a third total share of Holland's largest 'phone operator, Royal KPN, whose shares are currently hammered.

Is this just bargain hunting - or a vote of confidence in Europe?

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Possibly both. Currently Helu, richer than Bill Gates, controls just under 5% of Royal KPN through his mobile company America Movil. Boosting his holdings to 28% sends a very positive signal not just in Royal KPN but also at the wider Europe landscape.

Helu is not without some 'previous' in Europe; several failed attempts to enter the Spanish, Italian and Polish IT markets have been made before.

Bargain hunting - or value buying, as it's more often tagged - is Helu's style: he made substantial shopping acquisitions in South America when countries like Brazil were having a torrid time economically in the 2000s.

Blood spilt

Helu pounces when the blood is running in the gutters, a lesson he learnt from his Lebanese father Julian, who bought cheap real estate in Mexican City early in the 20th century when other investors scrambled to leave. "When we decide to do something, we do it quickly," he has said.

So Helu's sudden interest in KPN can be read on multiple levels, and a sign Europe's troubles may have hit bottom. Quoted in the Telegraph, Carlos Garcia-Moreno, the finance director of Helu's America Movil operation, said "it would clearly be a possibility to continue to look at Europe, but we cannot run before we walk".

Significantly the European region "should return to the growth scenario in the not too distant future", Garcia-Moreno adds. So it's official: the only way for Helu - and Europe - is up.