Hutchison and VimpelCom resume Italian mobile merger talks

Hong Kong’s Hutchison Whampoa and Russian telecoms firm VimpelCom have resumed discussions over the potential merger of their Italian mobile operations.

Discussions date back to December last year and have reportedly kicked off again following Hutchison’s 3 receiving approval of an acquisition in Ireland last week.

An unnamed source told reporters: “The talks are live again.”

Hutchison owns 3 Italia and VimpelCom owns Wind in Italy, and 3’s Irish acquisition, together with a partial refinancing of Wind’s debt, is thought to be giving the merger new momentum.

Telecom Italia and Vodafone are the mobile market leaders in Italy – with Wind and 3 Italia standing as the third and fourth largest, respectively – and discussions are in place to create a combined third player to compete with the top two.

If a merger is agreed, the two companies would then need to convince European regulators that reducing the number of mobile operators is in the best interests of consumers.

VimpelCom has hired Morgan Stanley to advise on the deal and Hutchison is working with Goldman Sachs.

Telecom Italia shareholder Mediobanca is expected to be involved in the deal, sources claim.

Hutchison Whampoa has been looking to increase its presence in Europe for some time. Last April it proposed a merger of mobile businesses with Telecom Italia, which was snubbed by the Italian operator’s shareholders.

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