Italy's CDP sounds out banks, funds on rival bid for TIM grid, sources say

The TIM logo is seen at its headquarters
The TIM logo is seen at its headquarters in Rome, Italy November 22, 2021. REUTERS/Yara Nardi/
  • CDP prepares response after KKR move for telecoms grid
  • TIM board to meet on Feb. 24 to decide on KKR's proposal
  • Italy looks at ways to put TIM's grid under state control

MILAN, Feb 7 (Reuters) - Italian state lender CDP is sounding out banks that could help finance its offer for Telecom Italia's landline grid while also speaking to infrastructure funds though time is tight to recruit another co-investor, sources close to the matter said.

CDP is seeking to finalise its bid after U.S. investment firm KKR (KKR.N) last week filed its own offer for the same Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) (TIM) asset.

KKR, which already owns a minority stake in the former phone monopoly's network, put forward a non-binding proposal to acquire a controlling stake in a new company comprising the network as well as TIM's submarine cable unit Sparkle.

Two sources familiar with the matter told Reuters KKR's approach valued the venture at about 20 billion euros ($21.4 billion).

TIM, which has called a board meeting for Feb.24 to decide on KKR' s approach, said the U.S. fund has indicated Feb.28 as the deadline for its proposal, adding it remained open to assess alternatives in the meantime.

Carving out and ceding control of TIM's prized landline is a focal point of TIM's CEO Pietro Labriola strategy to reshape the debt-laden group.

Treasury-owned CDP, which is a shareholder in TIM, was also studying a multi-billion offer for the network and still wants to bid for TIM's grid after KKR's move, people familiar with the matter told Reuters.

Among others, CDP has been sounding out Blackstone (BX.N), Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) and Brookfield (BIPC.N) for a role in its potential bid, the people said, declining to be named as discussions are private.

Blackstone declined to comment. GIP and Brookfield did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The sources also said CDP is tapping banks specialized in infrastructure financing to test their interest in funding a potential bid, including UniCredit (CRDI.MI), Intesa Sanpaolo (ISP.MI), Bnp Paribas (BNPP.PA) and Credit Agricole (CAGR.PA).

The banks had no immediate comment.


One of the sources said CDP is likely to present a bid with Australian fund Macquarie only, as there is little scope for another fund joining the venture given the tight deadline.

The bid could come as early as next week, the person said, cautioning deliberations are still ongoing.

Macquarie is a minority investor in Open Fiber, a wholesale-only fibre optic unit controlled by CDP and it has been involved for months in a plan to combine the two network infrastructures.

Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni repeatedly said her government wants to secure public control of TIM's network.

But there is no common ground yet within her administration on how to reach such a goal and it was no clear whether a CDP bid would receive the blessing of the Treasury.

Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti believes Rome has "multiple options" to put TIM's network under strategic government control, a separate source said, without elaborating.

In its approach for TIM, KKR has left the door open to a public entity to become a shareholder in the network company, a person briefed with the matter said last week.

A sale of a majority stake in the network could enable cash-bleeding TIM to cut its 25.5 billion euro debt pile and help promoting heavy investments needed to upgrade the infrastructure from old copper to fibre.

($1 = 0.9359 euros)

Reporting by Elvira Pollina in Milan, Giuseppe Fonte in Rome, additional reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Keith Weir

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