Telecom Italia says network spin-off talks continue

MILAN, March 13 Wed Mar 13, 2013 1:50pm EDT

MILAN, March 13 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia is continuing talks over a possible spin-off of its copper-wire network, its chief operating officer said on Wednesday, a project that could help the group pay down heavy debts and free up funds for investment.

The debate over such a spin-off has been going on for months and in December the company mandated management to further investigate a possible sale of a stake in the network to state fund Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP).

Some analysts have valued the network at 15 billion euros.

"All the discussions that were started continue in an orderly way to arrive at an orderly conclusion," Telecom Italia COO Marco Patuano said on the sidelines of a conference.

"Certainly the situation is not the most favourable one, but the important (thing) is not losing the thread of the discussions".

Telecom Italia, which launched a 750 million euro ($976 million) hybrid bond on Wednesday, had initially aimed to decide on the network spin-off plan by the end of last year.

The biggest obstacle to an agreement with CDP appeared to be the valuation of the network and the governance of the new company to be set up to manage the infrastructure, people familiar with the situation have said. ($1 = 0.7680 euros) (Reporting By Stefano Rebaudo; Writing by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Tom Pfeiffer)

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