KKR set to present nonbinding offer for Telecom Italia's network - sources

Illustration shows Telecom Italia (TIM) logo
Telecom Italia (TIM) logo is seen displayed in this illustration taken, May 3, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

MILAN, Feb 1 (Reuters) - U.S. private equity firm KKR & Co Inc (KKR.N) is close to presenting a nonbinding offer for Telecom Italia's (TIM) (TLIT.MI) fixed-line network, three people close to the matter said, in the latest twist of a long-running saga centred around the debt-laden phone group.

KKR, which is already an investor in TIM's network, had approached the group in late 2021 with a nonbinding takeover offer which TIM eventually rejected.

The network is TIM's most prized asset and key to supporting the 25.5 billion-euro ($28 billion) debt load of the former monopoly, which is burning cash in its mature domestic market.

As Italy's biggest telecoms infrastructure the network is deemed strategic by the government which can block unwanted interest under so-called golden powers rules.

One of the sources said KKR had informed the Rome government of its intention to submit an offer, which comes as state investor CDP studies its own bid for TIM's network.

KKR's offer is expected to be sent shortly to TIM, two other sources said.

The right-wing administration of Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni has repeatedly said it wants public ownership of the grid, whose value has been a bone of contention between CDP and TIM's single biggest investor, France's Vivendi (VIV.PA).

On Saturday a source close to Vivendi said the media group would consider a possible 24 billion-euro offer for the network by CDP as "very far" from what it deems fair.

At the end of last year, KKR held exploratory talks with government officials over a plan to partner with CDP or another state entity to buy 51% of TIM's access network, people familiar with the matter told Reuters in December.

KKR is already an investor in TIM's landline network, having spent 1.8 billion euros to secure a 37.5% stake in the group's last-mile network.

Daily la Repubblica first reported news of KKR's new offer on its website.

($1 = 0.9164 euro)

Writing by Valentina Za in Milan Editing by Jane Merriman and Matthew Lewis

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