According to Bloomberg, Milan-based metropolitan fibre-optic operator Metroweb has been sold to infrastructure fund F2i and Intesa Sanpaolo’s IMI Investimenti unit for EUR436 million (USD628.2 million). The stake was purchased from UK-based majority shareholder Stirling Square Capital (76.5%) and Milanese municipal utility firm A2A (23.5%), although A2A retains an indirect interest in Metroweb through a pre-existing loan, w¬hich can be converted into a 25% stake in November 2013, if exercised by A2A. Further, in a joint statement issued by the new owners, it has been revealed that Italian broadband provider Fastweb has expressed an interest in purchasing a minority stake in Metroweb; Fastweb is believed to be the main customer on Metroweb’s network at present. TeleGeography notes that F2i and IMI’s joint bid beat off interest from a consortium comprising Vodafone Italia, Wind Italia and Italian private equity fund Clessidra – which was initially believed to be the front-runner – and rival bids from French firms AXA Private Equity and Antin Infrastructure Partners.
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.