February 2, 2019 / 7:23 PM / 5 months ago

UPDATE 1-Italy's state holding company CDP favours single telecoms network plan

(Combines stories, adds details)

ROME/MILAN, Feb 2 (Reuters) - Italy’s state holding company Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) supports the idea of creating a single broadband network, CEO Fabrizio Palermo said on Saturday.

Open Fiber, controlled by CDP and Italy’s biggest utility Enel, started two years ago to build a fast fibre network in the country after Rome accused incumbent Telecom Italia (TIM) of acting too slowly to upgrade its ageing copper network.

But the populist government which took office in June thinks a single network would be more efficient, although Economy Minister Giovanni Tria has said it was a matter for private companies to decide.

Speaking at a banking conference in Rome, Palermo said he hoped the two main national players could collaborate to achieve this goal, but gave no further comment.

CDP, controlled by the Italian Treasury, has a 50 percent stake in Open Fiber and around 5 percent of TIM.

Daily La Repubblica reported earlier on Saturday that TIM and Open Fiber had signed a non-disclosure agreement that could include initial moves towards merging the two companies’ network assets. The report did not give further details.

A source close to the situation said the agreement, which was signed earlier this week, is a continuation of a commercial accord signed in November by Open Fiber and TIM’s previous chief executive Amos Genish.

The source did not know if this new agreement included any additional measures.

TIM and Open Fiber both declined to comment.

Open Fiber CEO Elisabetta Ripa said on Thursday her company was happy to consider possible synergies with TIM through commercial or co-investment agreements. But she added that it was up to shareholders to speak about corporate issues.

TIM CEO Luigi Gubitosi said this week in an interview with Corriere della Sera daily that the former telecoms monopoly is ready to discuss commercial accords, co-investments and a possible network combination with Open Fiber.

Enel CEO Francesco Starace said on Friday he was glad that TIM and Open Fiber were eventually “sitting at a table” and that he had called for this to happen for three years. (Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni in Rome and Stephen Jewkes in Milan Writing by Giulio Piovaccari Editing by David Holmes)

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