According to Bloomberg, Telecom Italia (TI) is poised to acquire wireless operator 3 Italia, which is currently owned by Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa. Citing a report by Corriere Della Sera, which declined to say where it obtained its information, Bloomberg said that the Goldman Sachs Group and Bank of America Merrill Lynch are currently working on a merger plan, without a formal mandate. 3 Italia, it says, is currently valued at around EUR4.3 billion (USD6.1 billion). Both parties involved have refused to comment, opting not to discuss market speculation.
Bloomberg indicates that the prospect of owning 3 Italia previously piqued TI’s interest in November 2008, when the two companies embarked upon merger talks, only to scrap the plans when they failed to agree on a price. Also in November 2008, 3 Italia was forced to release a statement denying that it had held secret talks regarding the possibility of disbanding the company and selling off its various assets. At the time Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore claimed that the cellco was considering selling its customer base and UMTS licence to rival mobile operator Wind Telecomunicazioni (Wind Italy). Last month Wind boss Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris reignited speculation linking his company with a potential acquisition of its domestic rival, admitting: ‘We have [an] appetite to grow our business. We believe there [are] synergies, but until there is something concrete we cannot say anything more than that. There is nothing concrete right now’.