Italy has become Vodafone's second-largest market after it gained 100 per cent control of Vodafone Italy following its $130 billion (€99 billion) deal with Verizon Communications, and the market is therefore set to be a key beneficiary of the UK operator's $9.3 billion "Project Spring" investment plan.
As part of the deal to sell its 45 per cent stake in Verizon Wireless to the U.S. operator, Vodafone acquired Verizon's 23 per cent stake in the Italian Vodafone unit.
However, in an interview with Italian daily Il Corriere della Sera, Vodafone CEO Vittorio Colao warned that Italy is not an easy market. He cited two main problems: a political and economic situation that is "not comforting for an investor," and a price war "that does not bring any good to anyone".
Nonetheless, "it remains structurally one of our main markets," he told the newspaper. "Italy will have a large part of our Project Spring, to accelerate 4G and go more in depth with fibre, or with our collaboration with Telecom Italy at affordable prices."
"Otherwise we are already equipped and are ready to invest," he added.
Italy is one of several markets where Vodafone is pursuing a strategy to invest in fixed assets and sell mobile and fixed services in a single bundle. The operator is also buying Kabel Deutschland in Germany, has already acquired Cable & Wireless Worldwide in the UK, and is looking at various options for other markets such as building its own networks and leasing fibre networks.
Vodafone's plan to invest billions in networks and services over the coming three years is expected to put other European players under pressure to do the same. However, he denied suggestions that the operator is looking to become Europe's AT&T: "We are already the largest operator in Europe for excellence and we are very strong in India, Africa and Oceania," he said.
Colao told the paper that further consolidation in Europe's telecoms market remains inevitable, and welcomed the recent deal between Nokia and Microsoft. "It is a strategic move that makes sense for everyone," he said. "If Microsoft creates a third alternative operating system to those of Apple and Google, it is better for us."
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