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TIM chief pours cold water on potential Mediaset stake in fibre network

Telecom Italia (TIM) CEO Luigi Gubitosi has dampened expectations that Mediaset might take a stake in the new Italian single fibre network operator announced last week.

Speaking at the Ambrosetti Forum even in Cernobbio, Gubitosi said that expressions of interest from third parties would be “evaluated” but that the advantages of a content company participating in the project were “not clear to me”.

Gubitosi was speaking after Mediaset expressed interest in participating in the single fibre network as a shareholder following the European Court of Justice ruling that effectively overturned Italy’s TUSMAR media law forbidding companies from simultaneously holding large stakes in media and telecom companies.

That ruling was a victory for Mediaset’s biggest shareholder Vivendi, which had taken action after it was forced to transfer the bulk of its stake in the media company to a trust that was subsequently barred from voting at Mediaset’s shareholder meetings.

On news of the ruling in Vivendi’s favour, Mediaset said it “will evaluate with the utmost interest every new opportunity in the [telecom] business”, specifically citing the agreement to create a single open fibre network infrastructure for Italy.

TIM’s board has approved an agreement with private equity outfit KKR Infrastructure and Swisscom-owned service provider Fastweb and a letter of intent with CDP Equity to create a single combined fibre network in Italy, owned by FiberCop.

The new company created by the agreement with KKR Infrastructure and Fastweb will be 58% controlled by TIM, 37.5% by KKR Infrastructure and 4.5% by Fasbweb. KKR Infrastructure has agreed to pay €1.8 billion for its FiberCop stake.

The agreement with CDP Equity is intended to enable the merger of FiberCop and Open Fiber, an existing government-backed fibre rollout in Italy, to create a single infrastructure company that will be open to all. TIM will own at least 50.1% of the new company and governance will be shared with CDP Equity. The merger is expected to take place during the first quarter of next year at the latest.