Operators reportedly bid for Hutch/VimpelCom Italian assets

A variety of operators are reportedly awaiting the availability of assets if the Three Italia/Wind merger is given the go ahead.

A report by Bloomberg claims Swisscom, Iliad and Digicel have made early bids for spectrum and radio towers likely to be made redundant should the subsidiaries of Hutchison and VimpelCom be given regulatory approval to merge in Italy.

Renegotiated, but not conclusive, bids have apparently been submitted to the EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager. It is thought the availability of spectrum and as many as 5,000 towers up for sale would create an opportunity for a new market entrant to fill the void left by the consolidation of Three and Wind. As such, the sale of available assets has the potential to placate the Commission sufficiently into approving the merger.

With the O2/Three merger in the UK recently vetoed over fears of market consolidation and the effect it could have on the consumer – including cost, choice and service innovation; a precedent is being set for future M&A attempts that each party will have to give the Commission sufficient reassurance that a new market entrant could easily come in to play.

The Deputy-CEO of Orange recently said the operator is giving up on consolidation for up to two years. While its recent discussions over the acquisition of Bouygues didn’t fall apart as a result of a regulatory veto – the respective boards of each telco apparently couldn’t see eye to eye on a number of points – the shadow of the Commission’s pressure on markets to keep four mobile players will almost certainly have had a strong influence over discussions.

If Bloomberg’s sources are correct in saying bids have been received, the response from Europe to the bids on the table will be an interesting benchmark for future consolidation activity.

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