(Bloomberg) -- KKR & Co.’s non-binding offer for Telecom Italia SpA’s network would value the assets at about €20 billion ($22 billion) including debt, as the US private equity giant seeks a controlling stake of the unit, according to people familiar with the matter.
KKR’s bid for the former Italian phone monopoly’s grid would involve taking over a significant amount of debt, which accounts for about half the value of the offer, the people said, asking not to be identified because the details aren’t public.
Spokesmen for Telecom Italia, KKR declined to comment.
Telecom Italia’s board of directors are scheduled to meet later on Thursday to start reviewing the offer and to appoint advisers, they said. A final review could take some weeks, the people added.
READ MORE: KKR Bids for Telecom Italia Grid as Carrier Aims to Cut Debt
Telecom Italia Chief Executive Officer Pietro Labriola is seeking to sell the network to cut the company’s more than €30 billion gross debt pile, which has become more burdensome as interest rates have risen. The carrier has been holding talks for months with state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti SpA — the government’s financial arm — about a sale that could eventually involve a merger of the network with smaller state-backed rival Open Fiber SpA. Cassa Depositi owns about 10% of Telecom Italia and controls Open Fiber.
The government, led by Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, has said it wants to retain control over the network, suggesting it might weigh imposing so-called golden share rules to block or limit foreign control over strategic assets.
KKR already owns a minority stake in Telecom Italia’s FiberCop unit. In 2021, the phone carrier rejected an offer from the fund to purchase the whole business for €10.8 billion. The bid announced Thursday did not specify what size stake KKR is seeking in the network, with Telecom Italia saying in a statement that it is still to be defined.
The phone carrier’s subsea cable unit, Telecom Italia Sparkle SpA, is among the assets targeted in the KKR bid, according to the statement.
Responding to the bid, the government said Thursday that safeguarding Telecom Italia’s workforce and network’s security are key and that it will follow developments about a possible deal on that basis.
Telecom Italia has also clashed over strategy with its largest shareholder, French media giant Vivendi SE, which owns almost 24% of the carrier. Last month, Vivendi began seeking a reshuffle of Telecom Italia’s board after the French company’s CEO Arnaud De Puyfontaine resigned as a director at the carrier.
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