Vodafone Group has reached a preliminary agreement to buy an indirect stake in Italian fibre-optic wholesale provider Metroweb Italia from investment fund F2i, three people with knowledge of the matter have informed Bloomberg. Vodafone and F2i, which currently owns 53.8% of Metroweb Holding, have reportedly signed a letter of intent to negotiate a deal, although the sources have cautioned that the transaction may still fall through. One of the conditions Vodafone has apparently assigned to the deal is that no single telecoms provider can gain majority control of Milan-based Metroweb.
According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Metroweb is co-owned by Metroweb Holding (87.7%) and Italian internet service provider (ISP) FastWeb (10.6%); the owner of the remaining 1.7% stake is unknown. Meanwhile, Metroweb Holding – the company Vodafone reportedly seeks to acquire a stake in – is owned by F2i (53.8%) and state-backed holding company Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) through its investment fund Fondo Strategico Italiano (FSI, 46.2%). As such, the proposed deal would give Vodafone an indirect 47.18% stake in Metroweb Italia.
At 5,100km in length, Metroweb claims to have the ‘most widely extended metropolitan network in Europe’. Although the infrastructure is concentrated in Milan, it connects to some of the biggest cities in northern Italy, including: Bologna, Turin, Verona, Vicenza and Genoa.