(Corrects to change to “now” from “not” in fifth paragraph)
MILAN, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Hutchison Whampoa does not plan to sell its Italian telecoms unit 3 Italia, the managing director of the Hong Kong-listed conglomerate was quoted as saying in Corriere della Sera newspaper on Tuesday.
Telecom Italia Executive Chairman Franco Bernabe said earlier this month the outcome of a tender for fourth- generation mobile frequencies showed there was no room for four operators on the Italian market, which should be rationalised.
3 Italia was the only contender that failed to secure the coveted 800 MHz band, feeding speculation this may lead to its exit from the Italian market.
“This looks to me more like somebody’s wish than the reality,” Hutchison Managing Director Canning Fok was quoted saying. “We had set a limit above which it was no longer economical for us to bid for the 800 MHz.”
He said Italy offered great growth opportunities especially for an operator like 3 Italia that had bet on data traffic long before the others, and could now take advantage of the growing popularity of smartphones and tablet computers.
“We have the most competitive offers on data traffic,” he said, pointing to the fact that cash-strapped consumers paid more attention to costs.
If a consolidation in the Italian telecoms market were to take place, 3 Italia would not be a target. “If there is one we would be ‘consolidators’ and not ‘consolidated’. In terms of financial resources, Hutchison Whampoa is more than ready,” he said.
3 Italia competes in Italy with former monopoly Telecom Italia, the local unit of Britain’s Vodafone and Wind, controlled by Russia’s Vimpelcom . (Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by David Holmes)