Telecom Italia fends off fixed network IPO rumours, as Sawiris mulls Italian comeback

Telecom Italia has dismissed talk of a possible listing of its fixed network as "premature" ahead of a board meeting on May 8, according to Reuters, as the Italian operator continues to be dogged by speculation about what it plans to do with the network.

Recent reports from Italian newspaper Il Messaggero suggested that Telecom Italia, which is also said to be considering a proposed tie-up with Hutchison Whampoa that could lead to a merger with 3 Italy, could place up to 60 per cent of its fixed-lined access network on the market, Reuters reported.

However, Telecom Italia said it is too early to talk of the sale of the fixed network, or of a tie-up with another operator, according to Reuters.

"Options for the possible integration of 3 Italia and the structural separation of the access network will be examined by the board of directors meeting scheduled for May 8," a spokesman told Reuters. "At present, any presumed conclusion of an agreement with possible mobile or fixed-line partners, company reorganisation or the prospective listing of a 'Network Company' are to be considered premature and the subject of mere speculation," the spokesman added.

The Italian incumbent has been mulling a spin-off of its fixed network for several months, and indeed may be forced to offload the network if the merger with Hutchison should go ahead. The network could be worth €12 billion to €15 billion ($16 billion to 20 billion), Reuters cited analysts as saying.

In a separate development, it has also been rumoured that Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris has expressed interest in re-entering the Italian telecoms market and is looking at assets including his former company, Wind, Bloomberg reported.

Sawiris has previously offered to buy a stake in Telecom Italia for €2 billion, but his offer was rejected five months ago. Bloomberg said he has also expressed scepticism about a possible deal between Telecom Italia and Hutchison, saying a merger would be unsuccessful due to differences between company cultures and business models.

The businessman first invested in the Italian telecoms industry in 2005 when he acquired Wind for €12.2 billion from utility company Enel, and later sold the operator to VimpelCom in 2011.

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article
- see this separate Reuters article

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