(Bloomberg) — Chief Executive Officer Luigi Gubitosi is preparing to relinquish control of Telecom Italia SpA’s network — an asset worth billions of euros — to revive a deal with rival Open Fiber SpA, people familiar with the matter said.
The revised merger plan comes in the wake of pressure from the Italian government, which has warned that previous versions of the deal could return the country’s telecommunications industry to a near-monopoly, the people said, asking not to be named because the new project isn’t public.
The new version of the plan is also aimed at addressing European Commission concerns that a combination with Open Fiber could hamper competition, the people said.
Telecom Italia shares rose as much as 4% in Milan and traded up 3.7% as of 2:54 p.m., the second-best performers on the FTSE MIB benchmark index on Thursday.
The bid to satisfy authorities in Rome and Brussels envisages securing a solid streamline of revenue for Telecom Italia as well as transferring part of the carrier’s 22 billion euros ($25.4 billion) in debt and several thousand employees to the combined entity.
Gubitosi now plans for Telecom Italia to hold a minority stake in a merged entity that will pool the company’s FiberCop landline unit with that of Open Fiber, a smaller, state-backed rival, the people said.
Italy’s state-backed lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti SpA, known as CDP, owns about 10% of Telecom Italia and controls Open Fiber.
Spokespeople for Telecom Italia, Open Fiber and Vivendi SE declined to comment. A representative for the Italian government did not have an immediate comment.
Gubitosi last month discussed the revised deal with top government officials in Rome, laying out his vision for a single network that would avoid duplications of investments and help accelerate a national fiber roll-out, the people said.
The change in approach could also help Telecom Italia placate its biggest investor, France’s Vivendi, which has called for Gubitosi to move faster with his plan to turn the company around.
Vivendi has stepped up pressure on the Italian executive after an October profit warning, and a group of directors led by CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine asked Telecom Italia Chairman Salvatore Rossi to convene a meeting to discuss the company’s plans on Nov. 11, people familiar with the matter said last week.
The extraordinary meeting will focus on a potential reorganization and on strategies to revive the phone carrier’s fortunes, including reviewing options for the network, the people said.
(Updates with share reaction in fourth paragraph.)
— By Daniele Lepido and Chiara Albanese with assistance from Alberto Brambilla.