Italian broadband provider FastWeb has confirmed that it has signed an agreement to acquire 11.1% of Milan-based metropolitan fibre-optic operator Metroweb, for an unconfirmed fee, rumoured to be around EUR48 million (USD64.8 million). Dow Jones Newswires reports that, following the transaction, Metroweb’s revised shareholder structure will be as follows: infrastructure fund F2i (61.4%); Milanese municipal utility firm A2A (25.7%); FastWeb (11.1%) and Metroweb management (1.8%). In June 2011 F2i and Intesa Sanpaolo’s IMI Investimenti unit acquired 76.5% of Metroweb for EUR436 million from UK-based majority shareholder Stirling Square Capital; existing shareholder A2A retained an indirect interest in Metroweb through a pre-existing loan, which can be converted into a 25% stake in November 2013. At the time of the transaction the new owners confirmed that FastWeb had already been earmarked for a stake in the company; the Swisscom-owned telco was believed to be the largest customer on Metroweb’s network prior to the deal. In addition, Italian news site La Repubblica has indicated that FastWeb may now be in a position to reduce its annual Metroweb rental fee, from EUR30 million to EUR25 million.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, 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 came 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 (TI) has committed itself to bringing FTTH/FTTB connectivity to an additional 138 cities by 2018. In November 2010 seven local telcos 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 TI, FastWeb, Wind, Vodafone Italia, Tiscali, BT Italia and 3 Italia. The new company has an executive committee chaired by Industry Minister Paolo Romani, and will focus on avoiding duplicate installations and coordinating investments.