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KKR Readies EU Remedies for €22 Billion Telecom Italia Deal

In Technology
May 15, 2024

(Bloomberg) — KKR & Co. is poised to offer a package of commitments aimed at winning an early European Union approval for its €22 billion ($23.8 billion) bid for Telecom Italia SpA’s land-line network.

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The remedies, expected to be filed next week, will likely solve EU concerns over possible price hikes in the wholesale telecom market — paving the way for June approval of the deal, according to people familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Telecom Italia shares rose 3.6% at 3:45 p.m. in Milan, almost seven times the country’s benchmark index.

The European Commission has been quizzing rivals and customers in the Italian telecoms market about potential distortions to competition resulting from the transaction, which sees the ex-phone monopolist cede control of its most valuable asset.

The Brussels-based regulator has privately warned US private equity giant KKR and Telecom Italia that a key condition for rubber stamping the acquisition is that wholesale prices for the Italian phone carrier’s rivals are kept down.

Appeasing regulators in the first stages of a merger probe avoids the months of uncertainty and scrutiny that come with an in-depth “phase 2” investigation. After the remedies are formally offered, the EU would push back its current May 30 deadline to decide on the deal by 10 days.

While the EU is nearing approval of the deal in June, timings could still slip and last-minute problems could still emerge, the people said.

The EU nod would mark a victory for Telecom Italia’s Chief Executive Officer Pietro Labriola, the main architect of the network sale plan. It would also be a boost for Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s administration — permitting the one-time state-controlled monopoly to slash its debt pile, while allowing the government to retain oversight of an asset deemed strategic.

KKR last year made a binding offer that valued the grid at about €22 billion, with Italy’s Finance Ministry taking up to a 20% stake in the grid unit in order to retain oversight.

KKR and the Brussels-based commission declined to comment.

(Updates with shares in third paragraph)

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