EU concerns at TIM-Open Fiber merger, as Macquarie tables Open Fiber bid

18 Sep 2020

The European Union could oppose a move by Italy to create a single national broadband operator by merging the infrastructure of Telecom Italia (TIM) and Open Fiber. A report from Bloomberg, which cites people familiar with the matter, says that EU competition officials led by Margrethe Vestager are concerned that a proposed combination of the two telcos’ networks would create a monopoly, reversing two decades of deregulation. Both TIM and Open Fiber count state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) as a shareholder, and the government is keen to see the firms merged to avoid costly duplication of broadband infrastructure.

Under the government’s plans, TIM would retain majority ownership of the combined networks business but would relinquish control. The combined unit would offer wholesale access to all service providers – including TIM – on an equal basis.

An Italian Treasury spokesperson told Bloomberg that they were not aware of any concerns, saying that Finance Minister Roberto Gualtieri ‘has regular contact with Margrethe Vestager and EU competition officials and they spoke recently. There is no awareness of a potential EU veto on the plan. There is instead, a common shared goal of providing Italy with modern digital infrastructure.’

Meanwhile, Italian utility group Enel has confirmed that it has received a EUR2.65 billion (USD3.13 billion) offer (excluding debt) for its 50% stake in Open Fiber from Macquarie Infrastructure & Real Assets (MIRA).

Italy, Enel, Macquarie Asset Management (incl. MIRA), Macquarie Group, Open Fiber, Telecom Italia (TIM)