MILAN (Reuters) – Telecom Italia (TIM) is expected on Wednesday to ask Italian state lender CDP and Australian fund Macquarie to improve their bid for TIM’s fixed network assets as it regards the offer as too low, four sources said on Tuesday.
Earlier this month CDP, which owns a 10% stake in TIM, submitted a non-binding bid together with its partner Macquarie to buy TIM’s network as part of a plan to combine the assets with those of TIM’s smaller rival Open Fiber.
CDP and Macquarie are both investors in Open Fiber. The joint offer values TIM’s grid at some 18 billion euros ($19.3 billion), including debt, sources have said.
Such an approach is an alternative to an offer by U.S. fund KKR to buy a controlling stake in the same asset.
KKR, which already owns a minority stake in TIM’s grid, offered up to 20 billion euros, including a 2 billion euros earnout mechanism – a valuation which was also billed as too low by TIM last month.
The sale of the grid is a key plank of TIM CEO Pietro Labriola’s plan to revamp the former national phone monopoly and cut its 25 billion euros debt pile.
The TIM board will meet on Wednesday to draw up a response to the CDP-Macquarie preliminary bid.
TIM’s top investor Vivendi, which quit the board in January after a round of fruitless talks with the government over the future of TIM, has already signalled it wants a higher valuation.
One of the sources said a new round of offers for the network, viewed by the Italian government as a strategic asset, could materialise in April.
Vivendi has indicated a price tag of 31 billion euros to back selling the grid. TIM itself has indicated a valuation of 25 billion euros, sources told Reuters last year.
($1 = 0.9334 euros)
(Reporting by Elvira Pollina and Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by Keith Weir)