Iliad reportedly mulling Italy entry to aid Hutch/VimpelCom merger

French telecoms conglomerate Iliad is reportedly in talks to launch Italy’s fourth mobile network operator should the Hutchison/VimpelCom merger of Three Italia and Wind go ahead.

According to Reuters, citing sources close the matter, Iliad has opened exclusive discussions over the acquisition of assets which could be freed up as a result of a merger between Three and Wind. Should negotiations progress, anything yielded from discussions could allay anti-competition fears the European Commission has over industry consolidation from four to three mobile players in any one market.

Reports last month said Iliad, as well as Swisscom and Caribbean operator Digicel, were hoping to acquire a significant amount of spectrum as well as something in the region of 5,000 towers made available as a result of the Three/Wind merger. It would appear that Iliad is winning the race to acquire those assets, and has reportedly submitted a proposal to the European Commission which will determine whether the terms are acceptable. Should it do so, it would infer that the Three/Wind merger has effectively been given the thumbs up, and would set an interesting precedent for future M&A activity in the industry.

The failed attempt by Hutch to acquire O2 earlier this year was chiefly because the move would lead to a reduction in the number of players in the market. If Hutch and VimpelCom successfully negotiate the entrance of a new market player in Italy, it could become a de facto benchmark for future M&A attempts.

The European Commission is said to be considering giving Hutchison, VimpelCom and Iliad an answer over Iliad’s proposed market entry by the end of the week; which would represent something verging on lightning fast decision-making from Europe.

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