The battle to acquire assets freed up by the proposed merger of 3 and Wind in Italy is now down to two players, with Fastweb and Iliad both vying to become the fourth operator in the country.
The Financial Times (FT) reports CK Hutchison and VimpelCom, which are pushing to ease EU regulator concerns over the tie up of their Italian units, now have potential deals in place with both Swisscom’s Fastweb and Iliad to sell assets and bring the market back up to four players, should the merger go ahead.
The two submitted preliminary bids for the assets earlier this month, as did Digicel Group, but there were apparently concerns among regulators in Brussels that the Caribbean operator would be new to Europe, and that billionaire owner Denis O’Brien also sits on the board of LetterOne, the investment group with a controlling stake in VimpelCom.
The offers from Fastweb and Iliad are similar in terms of financials, adds FT, and a decision could be based on which company could be most disruptive to the newly merged 3 Italia and Wind grouping.
CK Hutchison and VimpelCom agreed the €21 billion merger last summer which would establish the largest operator in the country, and the deal is currently going through the European Commission’s rigorous review process.
Antitrust authorities are now expected to express a view on the deal, with the potential sale of assets expected to be central to a remedies package that is likely to be required by the European Commission.
As part of the deal, Fastweb or Iliad would gain up to 8,000 mobile towers, which will cover the Italian population, with initial access to 5,400 masts and 35MHz of spectrum across a range of mobile bands.
Swisscom’s Fastweb already operates broadband services in Italy, so it would be able to roll out mobile services quicker, while Iliad will reportedly look to replicate its low cost mobile model that has proved disruptive in France.