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State lender greenlights offer for Telecom Italia to counter KKR

The board of Italian state lender CDP said Sunday it backed making a joint non-binding offer with Macquarie Asset Management for the fixed network of Telecom Italia (TIM).

The offer will go up against a rival bid from US investment fund KKR, which last month made a 20-billion-euro ($21.2-billion) offer for a controlling stake.

The CDP-Macquarie offer for TIM’s fixed business assets will expire on March 31.

“The board has given its green light to the presentation of a non-binding offer,” CDP — in which the Italian state has an 82.7-percent stake — said.

Telecom Italia later confirmed it had received the CDP offer.

The offer outbids the one made by KKR, according to a source who spoke on condition of anonymity.

The rightwing government of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has signalled its intention to create a publicly controlled nationwide network, regarding it as a strategic asset.

Telecom Italia is seeking to pare down a huge debt pile, which in December stood at some 25.4 billion euros.

CEO Pietro Labriola last June unveiled a strategic plan designed to achieve the splitting of the operator’s landline network and its service activities.

Telecom Italia’s board last month demanded KKR raise its bid by the end of March, as it sought out potential alternatives.

Telecom Italia’s main shareholder, French media giant Vivendi, had set the bid bar high in valuing the Italian company at 31 billion euros.

KKR is already an investor in TIM’s network, with a 37.5-percent stake in the Italians’ fibre optic network unit, FiberCop, for which it paid 1.8 billion euros in 2021.

Rome, which can block unwanted interest in assets deemed strategic, in November under Meloni’s predecessor Mario Draghi blocked an earlier CDP tilt for TIM following a preliminary accord between the state lender and the telecoms group.

That accord would have seen the TIM network merged with rival Open Fiber, in which CDP and Macquarie hold stakes of 60 and 40 percent respectively. AFP

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