VimpelCom is weighing up the options for its debt-heavy Italian operator Wind including a possible sale, merger or a refinancing, according to Financial Times. Talks have taken place with Hutchison Whampoa, parent of local rival 3.
Wind is the second-largest mobile business within the VimpelCom group but carries $14 billion of ringfenced debt that was added after it was acquired in 2010.
According to a person close to the situation, discussions did not get as far as talking about a merger or sale. No comments were made by either company.
Hutchison was also in discussion earlier this year with Telecom Italia about a possible merger of its mobile operations in Italy. Talks failed for a number of reasons, including valuation as well as political and regulatory concerns.
If VimpelCom and Wind joined forces then the combined entity would be the market leader in Italy, just ahead of current number one Telecom Italia as well as second placed Vodafone.
However, any deal between Hutchison and VimpelCom would need the approval of the regulatory authorities. There are parallels in Germany where Telefonica wants to acquire rival KPN-owned E-Plus.
As in Italy, the German deal would put together the third and fourth placed operators. The Telefonica/E-Plus combination has attracted much regulatory scrutiny and is seen as a test case for market consolidation.