Italy's Wind enters talks with Abertis on sale of at least 6,000 mobile towers

Wind Telecomunicazioni (Wind) has entered into exclusive talks with Spanish tower company Abertis regarding the sale of more than half of the Italian operator's 11,000 mobile towers put on the table in 2014 by parent VimpelCom.

Abertis today confirmed multiple press reports regarding the negotiations in a statement to the Spanish National Securities Market Commission. The document reveals that Wind has entered into exclusive talks with Abertis and its wholly owned subsidiary Abertis Telecom Terrestre for a period running through mid-February.

Wind, the Italian division of Netherlands-based VimpelCom, is discussing the sale of 6,000 towers to Abertis for €700 million ($800 million), and could extend the deal to cover a total of 7,700 towers for a price of around €900 million, Bloomberg reported, citing two unidentified sources.

A separate source told the Wall Street Journal that Abertis would place the Wind towers under the ownership of a company listed on the Madrid stock exchange as part of a plan to spin-off its telecoms business during 2015.

Abertis' telecoms arm currently has 8,000 broadcast and mobile phone towers, the Journal added.

Wind and VimpelCom previously announced plans to sell 11,000 of the Italian operator's towers. In its third-quarter 2014 earnings statement, VimpelCom noted the sale process was on track to be completed during the opening three months of 2015.

In October, VimpelCom pledged to continue looking for deals that would add value to its Italian business, after confirming that talks to merge the business into a 50:50 joint venture had fallen through.

While the company didn't name the potential Wind suitors, Hutchison Whampoa was widely named as one interested party. The company would have sought to merge Wind with its local Three Italy business, which Bloomberg noted at the time would have created the largest mobile operator in the country.

The sums reportedly being discussed between VimpelCom and Abertis are considerably higher than the value placed on Wind's towers when reports about the sale of the assets first broke in September 2014. At that time, Reuters stated the total value of all 11,000 towers would be around €500 million.

For more:
- view Abertis' statement [PDF]
- see this Bloomberg article
- view this Wall Street Journal report
- see the Bloomberg report on Wind/Hutchison
- see Reuters' tower sale article

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