Ardian-led consortium poised to grab INWIT tower group stake: sources

MILAN (Reuters) - A consortium led by French private equity group Ardian is the frontrunner to buy a 25% stake in Italy's biggest mobile towers group INWIT INWT.MI, two sources familiar with the matter said on Saturday.

Telecom Italia and Vodafone agreed in July to fold their Italian mobile tower assets into TIM’s 60%-owned unit INWIT to cut debt and free up cash for the roll-out of next generation 5G telecommunications networks.

The 10 billion euro merger deal is awaiting European Union antitrust clearance.

TIM and Vodafone will then have 37.5% each of the new, bigger INWIT. The two phone groups have already agreed to sell a combined 25% stake, worth around 2 billion euros.

According to one of the sources, a consortium led by Ardian is close to being picked after a thorough negotiation process. A second source confirmed Ardian was expected to secure the asset.

Vodafone, Telecom Italia and Ardian all declined to comment.

Reporting by Elvira Pollina and Elisa Anzolin; Editing by Giles Elgood