The reports suggest that Iliad, already a player in the Italian market with a base of around 8.5 million mobile users, could team up with private equity outfit Apax to launch a bid for TIM’s services arm.
A move by Niel could bring up head-to-head with rival French tycoon Vincent Bolloré, as Bolloré’s Vivendi is TIM’s largest shareholder.
Iliad Telecom CEO Thomas Reynaud last month told investors that the company remained open to potential bids for any of its competitors that was put up for sale but that currently nothing was on the table.
In February, Vodafone rejected a US$13 billion takeover bid by Iliad for its Italian operation, stating that it was not in the best interest of shareholders.
The Iliad rumours follow TIM’s rejection of interest by investment outfit KKR, which had called for the telco to open its books to due diligence before it would make a formal bid for the telco.
TIM said that KKR had not confirmed its earlier expression of internet and that its board had “unanimously decided that it would not be appropriate at this time to grant KKR access to due diligence”.
Newly appointed TIM CEO Pietro Labriola has instead focused on moving forwards with a plan to restructure TIM by separating its network operations from its services arm.
The telco has signed a non-disclosure agreement with CDP Equity S.p.A. to initiate preliminary discussions about the integration of TIM’s network with the network of Open Fiber, in which CDP Equity holds a 60% stake.
CDP is a shareholder in TIM as well as Open Fiber and the Italian government has been a strong proponent of creating a single infrastructure company for Italy.