MILAN Nov 20 An Italian minister strongly
endorsed on Tuesday a plan for a tie-up between Telecom Italia
and state-owned agency Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP)
to speed up the rollout of a national broadband network.
The debt-laden telecom group is assessing whether to
separate its fixed-line assets into a new company and sell a
stake in it to CDP. It is also considering a proposed sizeable
investment by Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris.
"My desire is that Italy rolls out a high-quality network in
a short period of time. I hope we will be able to convince
Telecom Italia to forge a strong tie-up with the CDP," Industry
Minister Corrado Passera said in interview with online newspaper
Italy, mired in recession as it drives through austerity
measures to cut its public deficit, lags European peers in terms
of broadband access.
Parties backing the spin-off, including the Italian
government, argue it would free resources for much-needed
The move could also help Telecom Italia cut its debt and win
more favourable regulatory conditions in the country.
Passera's remarks come just two days before of a key Telecom
Italia strategy meeting expected to consider the potential
investment by Sawiris, along with the possible network spin-off.
"I don't think the sector can afford having two or three
networks or even starting from scratch because costs would be
unsustainable. The possible investment of Sawiris in Telecom
does not change my view," Passera was quoted as saying.
The minister cited as examples of a single network company
Italy's power network group Terna and gas grid operator
After Sawiris' interest in investing in Telecom Italia
through the purchase of newly issued shares emerged last week,
newspaper reports speculated Telecom Italia may not go ahead
with the network separation plan.
The group has repeatedly said a decision on whether to go
ahead with the possible network spin-off would be taken by the
end of the year and be based on industrial reasons.
(Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Mark Potter)