Italy’s Minister for Innovation and Digital Transformation has backed a plan to combine the network assets of Telecom Italia (TIM) and wholesale provider Open Fiber, but only if competition is maintained. A report from Reuters cites Vittorio Colao as saying: ‘What we’re keen on is a national telecoms infrastructure ensuring great performance and quality. If this were to happen by combining parts of Telecom (Italia) with Open Fiber, that’s welcome as long as competition is preserved.’
Italian state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) owns 60% of Open Fiber and almost 10% of TIM. According to Reuters, it is preparing to make a non-binding bid for TIM’s fixed grid later this month, possibly before a general election on 25 September. Under a scheme still under discussion, Open Fiber would be used as a vehicle to buy out TIM’s domestic networks business and international cable unit Sparkle. This would leave TIM to oversee its retail operations in Italy and Brazil.
The merger plans could still be derailed, however. Brothers of Italy, a right-leaning political party which is performing well in pre-election polls, is thought to be in favour of TIM being re-nationalised. Meanwhile, TIM’s largest shareholder, Vivendi of France, is unhappy with CDP’s valuation of the networks business, which is roughly EUR20 billion (USD19.9 billion); Vivendi is seeking a valuation closer to EUR30 billion.