MILAN, Nov 26 (Reuters) - Italian Prime Minister Giorgia
Meloni has given one of her top aides powers to oversee Rome's
strategy on ultra-fast broadband networks as the new right-wing
government reviews plans for the country's biggest telecoms
company Telecom Italia (TIM).
Cabinet undersecretary Alessio Butti will now be in charge
of the strategy, according to a decree on Friday seen by
Reuters. Butti has been critical of the previous government's
plan to cut TIM's 25 billion euro ($26 billion) debt pile by
selling its landline grid.
The sale is a key plank of CEO Pietro Labriola's strategy to
break up and revamp the battered company. State lender Cassa
Depositi e Prestiti (CDP) has an end-November deadline to submit
a preliminary bid for the landline grid, under a plan championed
by Meloni's predecessor Mario Draghi.
The multi-billion euro offer would be part of a broader
project to merge TIM's network with smaller rival Open Fiber,
which is controlled by CDP.
Butti criticised such an approach and called for CDP to take
over TIM, whose stock is trading close to record lows, with the
aim to combine the former phone monopoly network assets with
those of Open Fiber.
His so-called "Minerva" project also envisages TIM selling
off its service operations as well as its unit listed in Brazil
to cut its debt.
The state lender is TIM's second largest investor with a 10%
stake. French media conglomerate Vivendi has a 24%
CDP's plan for TIM has been complicated also by
valuation divergences with Vivendi, which is demanding 31
billion euros to back a sale, at least 10 billion euros above
the state lender's price tag, sources have said.
CDP still aims to submit a bid for TIM's infrastructure
by Nov. 30 under a preliminary pact sealed in May, but has not
yet received a government go-ahead, four sources familiar with
the matter told Reuters on Friday.
Two of the sources said key government officials still had
reservations about CDP's plan, and therefore the lender could
freeze the offer for the network.
Meloni's office and CDP declined to comment.
Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti, who plays a key role
in the sale, on Tuesday reiterated that the government wants to
win control of TIM's network which is deemed of strategic
interest, adding such a goal can be reached in "several ways".
Earlier this month Giorgetti warned that Butti's plans for
TIM needs to be extensively discussed within the government.
A meeting between the government and unions, aimed at
discussing TIM's future, is scheduled for Nov. 28.
($1 = 0.9620 euros)
(Reporting by Elvira Pollina and Giuseppe Fonte; Editing by
Lisa Shumaker and Clelia Oziel)