TIM considering network options

23 Jan 2019

Telecom Italia (TIM) is said to be reviewing its options for the future of its fixed line network assets after the Italian regulator rejected a legal separation of its infrastructure and its retail businesses. A report from Bloomberg suggests that newly installed CEO Luigi Gubitosi is re-considering a plan to spin off the infrastructure unit and have it merged with government-backed wholesale operator Open Fiber. For the time being, however, the telco’s favoured plan is still thought to be a structural separation which allows it to maintain control of its network assets.

Earlier this week Italy’s Communications Regulatory Authority (Autorita per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni, Agcom) rejected proposals put forward by TIM for the spin-off of its fixed networks business into a separate but wholly-owned division. The watchdog fears that the separation would not help boost competition in the domestic market and would still let the incumbent benefit from ‘a significant competitive advantage’.

A boardroom battle is underway between TIM’s main shareholders Vivendi and Elliott Advisors. The former wants TIM to retain control over its networks, while Elliott is backing a full spin-off. Gubitosi’s predecessor, Amos Genish, who was installed by Vivendi, had said he would consider a tie-up with Open Fiber, though he favoured the structural split.

Open Fiber is a joint venture between utility group Enel and state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP). It is deploying fibre-optic networks across Italy which are leased to third-party providers such as Vodafone Italy and Wind Tre. It had fibre infrastructure passing around 4.8 million homes by the end of 2018.