MILAN (Reuters) - Italy might consider raising its stake in former phone monopoly Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) (TIM) as part of a plan to speed up the rollout of ultra-fast internet across the country, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte said on Monday.
The Italian government sees building an ultra-fast broadband network as crucial to reviving its coronavirus-hit economy.
It has called on TIM and rival Open Fiber to reach an accord quickly on creating a single ultra-fast broadband network to avoid costly duplication of investments.
Open Fiber is a wholesale-only broadband operator jointly owned by Enel (ENEI.MI) and state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), which is also TIM’s second largest shareholder with a 10% stake behind France’s Vivendi (VIV.PA).
Telecom Italia (TIM) (TLIT.MI) has been in talks for months about merging its network assets with those of Open Fiber, but differences over governance, regulation and other issues have thwarted efforts.
In a blogpost, the founder of the senior coalition party 5-Star Movement Beppe Grillo called on CDP to increase further its stake in TIM to about 25% to equal Vivendi’s holding.
Asked in an interview with IlFatto.it website whether Italy was thinking of raising its stake in Telecom Italia (TIM), the prime minister said Grillo’s “idea is good ... it is one of the options we may consider.”
CDP, which is 82.8% state-owned, should act as “pivot” to create a single network operator in the country, Grillo said.
Grillo, who in the past campaigned to return TIM’s network to state control, said a single network where private investors had a role could be “the lesser evil” provided it was open to all players and was able to deliver investments needed to rollout fiber across Italy.
Reporting by Angelo Amante; Writing by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Edmund Blair