Talks about a merger between VimpelCom’s Wind and Hutchison Whampoa’s 3, Italy’s third and fourth largest mobile groups, are at an advanced stage, the Financial Times reported.
Although there is still no certainty about the deal, if it was to go through Hutchison could get a 51 per cent share in the new entity, said a source.
Negotiations around the merger have been one of the longest running in the European telecoms market, starting in December 2013, and are part of Hutchison’s consolidation strategy across Europe.
Hutchison’s 3 Group acquired rival Telefonica’s O2 unit in Ireland and participated in consolidation in Austria, and in January this year entered into exclusive negotiations with Telefonica for the potential acquisition of O2 UK.
If Hutchison could pull off an Italian merger, it would create the largest operator in Italy, marginally ahead of Telecom Italia. However, Brussels’ anti-trust regulator will have to approve any such deal, and it this week warned that consumer interest will be its priority.
A price war initiated by Wind and 3 has meant that Italian operators have suffered a decline in revenue, and a merger could improve their outlook.