Open Fiber backed with $3.5bn funding for fibre project

06 August 2018 | James Pearce

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Italy’s Open Fiber has been handed a $3.5 billion finance package, backed by banks, the state lender and the European Investment Bank, to roll out ultrafast broadband.

The funding deal, which was led by UniCredit, Societe Generale, and BNP Paribas, is the biggest-ever fibre optic finance deal of its kind in the EMEA region and will help Open Fiber to deploy a fibre-to-the-home network across Italy.

The financing deal will be repayable over seven years, with the cost of Open Fiber’s plans estimated at around €6.5 billion – the rest is expected to come from key shareholders Enel and state lender CDP.

Elisabetta Ripa, chief executive officer of Open Fiber, said: “The financial markets have shown great interest in Open Fiber's Business Plan, the operation attracting the biggest Italian and foreign banks. It is a clear sign of confidence in the scheme, in the wholesale-only model and especially in Open Fiber's people who have done a fantastic job in recent months.”

The new funding, which is made up of €350 million from the EIB and €950 million from its shareholders, is due to be available in October. Open Fiber is aiming to connect around 19 million homes and business with FTTH, covering 271 Italian cities and 7,000 municipalities.

The network will compete against incumbent Telcom Italia (parent of Sparkle) and its existing network, thought the Italian government has said it is still interesting in the idea of a single wholesale fibre network. This would involve some kind of tie-up between TIM and Open Fiber.