ZURICH, March 22 Telecoms group Swisscom has 1.6-1.7 billion Swiss francs ($1.8-$1.9 billion) available for acquisitions in Switzerland and Italy, the company's chief financial officer said in an interview published on Saturday,
"When we talk about M&A (mergers and acquisitions) at Swisscom we look at two countries mainly: Switzerland and Italy. Smaller companies, especially IT service providers come into consideration," Mario Rossi told Germany's Boersen-Zeitung.
Given the Swiss government, Swisscom's majority owner, has imposed a net debt ceiling of 2.2 times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation, Rossi said the company had firepower for M&A in the range of 1.6 to 1.7 billion francs.
Swisscom is present in Italy through broadband network operator Fastweb, which it acquired in 2007 for 4.6 billion euros.
Rossi reiterated that Swisscom had no plans to sell Fastweb, following speculation it could be a target for cash-rich Vodafone, and said the network operator should make a positive contribution to Swisscom's free cash flow from 2015.
He said he believed Italy was over the worst of its economic problems: "We've reached the trough and therefore can expect some tailwind from the economy."
($1 = 0.8838 Swiss Francs) (Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Mark Potter)