Hong Kong based conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa has made an offer that would see it become Telecom Italia's largest shareholder.
Telecom Italia announced
yesterday that its board is considering a proposal for a business combination with Hutchison Whampoa's Italian mobile unit 3 Italia.
The deal would likely involve a merger between Telecom Italia and 3 Italia, probably by Hutchison selling its unit to Telecom Italia in exchange for shares in the company.
Hutchison has stipulated that a condition of the merger is for the company to become Telecom Italia's top shareholder.
Sources close to the negotiations told Reuters
that Hutchison may acquire nearly 30% of Telecom Italia, by buying out some existing share holdings in addition to the stake it will receive by selling 3 Italia.
They added that Hutchison is likely to seek to acquire the additional stake from Telco, a consortium between Telefonica and several Italian companies which owns a 22.4% stake in Telecom Italia.
Telecom Italia has in recent years been struggling with a large debt burden, prompting multiple writedowns and a steep decline in the company's share price.
A deal would require approval from antitrust regulators, as it would reduce the number of Italian mobile operators from four to three.