According to Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore, a consortium comprising Vodafone Italia, Wind Italia and Italian private equity fund Clessidra, is the frontrunner to acquire Milan-based metropolitan fibre-optic operator Metroweb. On Tuesday Dow Jones Newswires reported that bidding for Metroweb had entered its final phase, with majority shareholder Stirling Square Capital Partners confirming that it had received four binding offers. The remaining bids came courtesy of French firms AXA Private Equity and Antin Infrastructure Partners, and a consortium consisting of Italian bank Intesa Sanpaolo and local infrastructure fund F2i. A source familiar with the situation told Dow Jones: ‘The four offers are now being evaluated and the next step is likely to be the choice of a couple of frontrunners. But there’s no set timeline yet’. The unnamed source indicated that Metroweb is valued at around EUR450 million (USD666.6 million). Metroweb is currently owned by Stirling Square Capital Partners (76.5%) and A2A (23.5%).
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’s 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.