Telecom Italia (TI) has confirmed that it is interested in acquiring Metroweb, a fibre-optic wholesale provider based in Milan. However, despite the firm’s interest in Metroweb, CEO Franco Bernabe admitted that TI has yet to make a formal offer for the fibre provider, commenting: ‘We know there’s an ongoing sale process [for Metroweb]. We’ll watch it, as will everybody else, but we haven’t made any kind of advances’. At 5,100km long, Metroweb claims to have the ‘most widely extended metropolitan network in Europe’. Although the infrastructure is concentrated in Milan, it connects to the some of the biggest cities in Northern Italy, including: Bologna, Torino, Verona, Vicenza and Genova. Metroweb is currently owned by Stirling Square Capital Partners (76.5%) and A2A (23.5%); the owners have reportedly hired an adviser to explore the sale of the company. Local press reports value the company at between EUR400 million (USD550 million) and EUR500 million.
Metroweb’s mooted sale comes at a crucial time within the Italian broadband sector, with the ongoing ‘Fibre for Italy’ project aiming to bring fibre to 20 million people in Italy’s 15 largest cities by 2015. Telecom Italia has committed itself to bringing FTTH/FTTB connectivity to an additional 138 cities by 2018. In November 2010 seven Italian telecoms operators agreed to join forces in order to form a new company charged with overseeing the infrastructure rollout in areas where no operator has scheduled a fibre deployment thus far. The companies involved are Telecom Italia, FastWeb, Wind, Vodafone Italia, Tiscali, BT Italia and 3 Italia. The new company will have an executive committee chaired by Industry Minister Paolo Romani, and focus on avoiding duplicate installations and coordinating investments.