The Italian units of Hutchison Whampoa and Vimpelcom are reported to be moving closer to a merger agreement, with a deal likely to be announced in the next three months. Bloomberg reports that the firms have already settled on Maximo Ibarra, the chief executive of Vimpelcom’s Wind Telecomunicazioni subsidiary, to lead the enlarged company. Vincenzo Novari, who leads Hutchison’s 3 Italia division, is poised to become a board member and take a supervisory role, the report suggests. Sources familiar with the matter have told Bloomberg that the key issue still to be resolved is the shareholding structure of the new entity.
Wind and 3 Italia currently lie third and fourth respectively in Italy’s mobile market; a tie-up would see the creation of a cellco with around 31 million subscribers, just enough to take them into top spot in the market ahead of current leader Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) and the other player, Vodafone Italy. 2014 revenues for the combined entity would have stood at around EUR6.4 billion (USD7.2 billion). A report from the Financial Times in March suggested that Hutchison is likely to take a slightly larger share of the combined firm – thought to be 51% – in return for assuming Wind’s debts. Talks over a potential merger have been ongoing for over a year.