Telecom Italia board meets to discuss takeover proposal from KKR – Reuters

Telecom Italia’s logo for the TIM brand is seen on a building in Rome, Italy, April 9, 2016. REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi/File Photo

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  • Goal is to spin off fixed line, run it as govt-regulated asset
  • KKR targets TIM-Open Fiber grid merger but decision with govt
  • Embattled TIM CEO pushing to revive single-network plan
  • Rival CVC, Advent also open to studying solution for TIM

MILAN, Nov 21 (Reuters) – Telecom Italia (TIM) (TLIT.MI) said on Sunday its board had examined a non-binding proposal by U.S. fund KKR (KKR.N) aimed at taking Italy’s biggest phone group private that valued it at 10.8 billion euros ($12 billion).

KKR’s proposal, which would offer a 45.7% premium versus the closing price of TIM’s ordinary shares on Friday, comes as TIM’s CEO Luigi Gubitosi battles for survival after coming under fire from top investor Vivendi (VIV.PA) following two profit warnings in three months.

Gubitosi brought KKR onboard last year in a 1.8 billion euro deal that handed the New York-based fund a 37.5% stake in FiberCop, the unit holding TIM’s last-mile network connecting street cabinets to people’s homes.

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TIM’s fixed line business is its most prized asset and is deemed strategic by Rome, which has powers to block any unwanted moves.

Unable to stem TIM’s revenue haemorrhage, Gubitosi has started looking at ways to squeeze money out of TIM’s assets, revisiting in particular a plan to merge TIM’s fixed-line grid with that of fibre optic rival Open Fiber.

Sponsored by the previous government, that project had run aground under Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

The PM’s office said it was following the situation.

The government is aware of the need to shore up the debt-laden group at a time when it needs to step up investments, and protect its 42,500 domestic workers, sources have said.

KKR’s plan would see TIM carve out its fixed network to be run as a government-regulated asset along the model used by energy grid company Terna (TRN.MI) or gas grid firm Snam (SRG.MI), two sources close to the matter said earlier on Sunday.

Separately private equity firms CVC and Advent studied possible plans for TIM, working with former TIM CEO Marco Patuano, now a senior adviser to Nomura (7131.T) in Italy.

A spokesperson for the two funds said they were open to working with all stakeholders on a solution to strengthen TIM.

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Additional reporting and writing by Valentina Za; editing by Andrew Heavens, David Evans and Keith Weir

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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