MILAN, May 24 (Reuters) - Italian state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti is set to pick Italy’s biggest utility Enel as buyer for fibre-optic group Metroweb at a board meeting scheduled on Wednesday, three sources familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
Last week Enel made a formal offer to buy Metroweb valuing it at 806 million euros, a move that could thwart a rival all-cash bid from Italian phone incumbent Telecom Italia which has offered 814 million euros.
Metroweb - which owns fibre-optic networks in Milan, Turin and Genoa - is owned by CDP and Italian infrastructure fund F2i which in turn has the state lender as one of its shareholders.
“CDP’s choice has been made and is in favour of Enel”, one of the sources said.
A second source said a decision had been taken, adding CDP would give a mandate to its CEO to proceed with exclusive talks with Enel.
The state-controlled utility earlier this year set up Enel Open Fiber (EOF) to manage its fibre ambitions and plans to invest 2.5 billion euros to bring ultra-fast broadband into peoples’ homes using its existing power network.
Rolling out a high-speed Internet network is a key plank of Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s reformist agenda.
Enel’s offer will be partly in cash and partly in shares of EOF in which CDP and F2i would both be investors, sources said.
The utility could have more than 50 percent of EOF depending how the deal is structured, two sources said. But a third source said Enel would end up holding around 40 percent of EOF while CDP and F2i would hold respective stakes of 40 percent and 20 percent.
Another source said the idea was for Enel to remain below 50 percent of EOF capital, adding if it did find itself for a while with a majority stake it would go below half before the end of next year so it did not have to consolidate any debt.
CDP was not immediately available for a comment. (Reporting by Stefano Rebaudo, Silvia Aloisi, Stephen Jewkes)