Telecom Italia’s chief executive Riccardo Ruggiero has hinted at a possible pull-out from the French broadband market in the medium term, piquing the interest of rival alternative broadband provider Iliad (Free), which says it would be interested in buying the unit. In a conference call last Friday, the TI official said: ‘In mid- to long-term, France is not a country where we want to consolidate. I won’t deny that we have considered exiting France.’ Although the Italian firm backtracked over the weekend, saying that there was ‘no process of sale under way or decision to sell’, TI has made no secret of its desire to offload the broadband asset which is struggling to achieve a meaningful economy of scale in the competitive internet access market.
Iliad yesterday confirmed it could be interested in purchasing Telecom Italia France, which markets services under the Alice banner, and is estimated to be worth as much as EUR686 million (USD1 billion). A sale could also attract the likes of neuf Cegetel which has been active in recent consolidation of the French broadband sector, privately owned cable operator Numericable, and even former monopoly France Telecom.