Hutchison Whampoa’s H3G Italia business has been valued at around EUR10 billion in a poll of merchant banks conducted by Italian daily Il Mondo. Hutch expects to launch an initial public offering for the 3G operator in the final quarter of this year.
H3G received its UMTS licence in October 2000. It immediately embarked on a rapid rollout programme and initially announced plans to launch commercial services under the banner 3 by the end of 2002. However, a string of technical teething problems and delays in handset deliveries meant it was not until March 2003 that the network eventually launched. By the start of May the cellco had slashed the price of handsets and was signing up an average 1,000 to 1,500 customers each day. The tactic of using low-cost incentives with new services continues to bear fruit and H3G ended 2004 with an estimated 2.8 million users. The cellco expects to double its subscriber base by the end of this year, with annual revenues rising to EUR1.8 billion.