MILAN (Reuters) -Shares in Telecom Italia (TIM) slid to fresh record lows on Tuesday after the company said CDP and its partners had asked for more time to finalise a bid for the former phone monopoly’s network assets.
Under a preliminary agreement sealed in May and sponsored by Italy’s outgoing government, state lender CDP and TIM had aimed for a binding deal by the end of October but that deadline will now slip.
CDP’s approach is part of a long-held plan to combine TIM’s fixed network assets with those of state-backed rival Open Fiber to create a single national network operator under CDP control.
The plan, sponsored by the outgoing government of Mario Draghi, will have to be reviewed by a new right-wing government which is due to be installed later this month.
“The delay is nominally a big disappointment but hardly unexpected in presence of a valuation gap and yet to be defined government,” Banca Akros said in a note.
TIM shares fell as much as 3.5% to hit a record low at 0.1743 euros.
The potential multi-billion grid sale is also a key plank of the strategy set out by TIM Chief Executive Pietro Labriola to turn around the battered former phone monopoly.
Divergences on valuations have complicated negotiations, with TIM’s top investor Vivendi seeking 31 billion euros, some 10-15 billion above CDP’s valuation, sources have said.
Labriola is expected to meet CDP Chief Executive Dario Scannapieco this week to discuss a new deadline to clinch a binding deal, which could be set in mid-December, according to a source familiar with the matter.
As it seeks to press ahead with its turnaround plan and cut its 25 billion euros debt pile, TIM will launch a beauty contest to sell a minority stake in its enterprise service arm.
The venture, dubbed TIM Enterprise, combines the phone group’s connectivity services for big corporate clients and public administration, as well as cloud, cybersecurity and Internet of Things operations.
The process is expected to kick off in November, with preliminary offers due before year-end, two sources familiar with the matter said.
In March, CVC made a non-binding proposal for a stake of up to 49% in the unit. The approach valued the venture at 6 billion euros, a price tag deemed inadequate by TIM, sources had previously said.
Other players besides CVC have expressed interest after the unit was presented at a capital markets day, Labriola said during this summer.
(Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi and Elvira Pollina,Writing by Keith Weir and Elvira Pollina, editing by Ed Osmond)