Battle for Metroweb Gains Momentum in Italy


Reuters reports about the movement by Telecom Italia to revive talks to take over the fixed-line broadband provider Metroweb after its rival Vodafone’s attempts to buy a stake in the group. Buying a stake in Metroweb, which owns the biggest fiber-optic network in Italy’s business capital Milan, could ultimately determine who calls the shots in the multi-billion euro plan.

Metroweb is a small firm which rents out fiber optic cables but Prime Minister Matteo Renzi considers the partly state-owned company as a building block for a 12 billion euro ($13 billion) plan to roll out high-speed networks in Italy.

The fresh movement to takeover Metroweb comes at a time when Italian government pushes to modernize its increasingly decrepit broadband system and speed up the rollout of ultrafast networks to help its ailing economy.

Telecom Italia board directors will meet on Thursday in Venice to review the situation after talks to buy a stake in Metroweb collapsed earlier this year due to disagreements over the ownership structure of the deal.

Both Telecom Italia and Vodafone, which competes with the former phone monopoly for the top rank in the mobile market, have set their sights on Metroweb as they seek to meet growing consumer demand for bandwidth-consuming services. Telecom Italia is interested in securing a 51 percent stake but Chairman Giuseppe Recchi said in February the board had concluded conditions were not yet right for an agreement.

Vodafone last week signed a non-disclosure agreement over Metroweb, formally opening negotiations to buy a stake and putting pressure on Telecom Italia to reconsider its stance. Vodafone had an opinion in the past that there could be risks to competition if other operators are not allowed to take a stake in Metroweb and have a say over its strategic decisions.

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