Telecom Italia may look at buying Metroweb stake - sources

MILAN, March 20 Thu Mar 20, 2014 1:50pm EDT

MILAN, March 20 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia may look into taking a minority stake in Italian fibre network provider Metroweb to help boost its investments in faster networks, people familiar with the matter said.

Buying a stake in Metroweb would allow Telecom Italia to join forces with cash-rich, state-backed holding company Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), which indirectly controls Metroweb together with infrastructure fund F2i, they said.

However, such a complex project was at an embryonic stage and no negotiations were under way at the moment, since Telecom Italia was just one month away from renewing its board, the sources added.

"It's just a hypothesis for Telecom Italia," one of the sources said, asking not to be named.

"Telecom could be interested but it's very premature ... it's not being worked on at the moment," another source said.

A tie-up between Telecom Italia, which owns Italy's largest fixed-line network, could help avoid duplications in costly investments at a time when the former monopoly is battling to cut debt of almost 27 billion euros ($37 billion).

A spokesman for Telecom Italia declined to comment, while Metroweb said such a collaboration would make sense.

"It would be a welcome solution to improve the efficiency of Italy's telecommunication system," Metroweb Chief Executive Alberto Trondoli told Reuters.

Telecom Italia scrapped its dividend for the first time earlier in March, saving about 290 million euros, a fraction of the 3 billion euros a year it plans to invest in Italy.

Metroweb booked core profit of 47.2 million euros on revenues of 60.9 million euros in 2012, according to the latest figures on its website.

($1 = 0.7189 Euros) (Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Writing by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Mark Potter)

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