Swisscom’s Fastweb, Iliad and Digicel Group reportedly submitted preliminary bids for assets that could be freed up by the proposed merger of CK Hutchison’s 3 Italia and VimpelCom’s Wind in Italy.
Hutchison and VimpelCom are pushing to ease competition concerns over the tie-up of their Italian units, which is currently subject to an EU probe, and are willing to sell spectrum and about 5,000 towers to facilitate the entrance of A new competitor in the country.
According to Bloomberg sources, preliminary (not binding) bids for the assets have been presented to EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, but details remain private.
Fastweb and Iliad have been linked to the assets in recent weeks, as was broadcaster Sky, but the UK-based pay-TV company has reportedly dropped out of the race.
Caribbean operator Digicel, which is controlled by Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien, has now also joined the game.
The deal between Wind and 3 to merge, worth approximately €21 billion, was first announced last summer, and is currently going through the European Commission’s (EC) rigorous review process.
Concerns the deal will be blocked heightened when the EC blocked a merger in the UK, also involving Hutchison’s 3, with Telefonica’s O2 UK. Like the proposed deal in Italy, it would have reduced the UK market to three players.
By lining up bidders for the prospective assets at this stage, Hutchison and VimpelCom are hoping to avoid seeing this deal follow the same fate, adds Bloomberg.
News of the preliminary bids comes as EC chief Vestager is reportedly preparing formal objections to the deal.
The EC will also reportedly provide feedback on the bids to both companies in a few days.