Eir shareholder Iliad submits bid for Vodafone’s Italian unit

Iliad, the French operator backed by telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel and one of Eir’s biggest shareholders, has made an offer for the Italian unit of the Vodafone group, people familiar with the matter said.

The French company submitted an offer to Vodafone’s board last week, the sources said, asking not to be identified as the information is private.

Vodafone is currently looking for merger opportunities in the UK, Spain, Italy and Portugal, chief executive Nick Read said on Wednesday. Bloomberg previously reported that activist investor Cevian Capital had taken a stake in England-based Vodafone and was campaigning for change, including selling some deals or pursuing share buybacks.

Stocks go up

Shares of Vodafone rose 2.9% following Monday’s report, while shares of Telecom Italia reversed earlier losses as investors bet Italy’s former telephone monopoly could benefit from market consolidation .

Representatives for Vodafone and Iliad declined to comment.

Europe’s big telecoms companies are rushing to consolidate, after years of low margins and increased pressure from investors. Vodafone recently approached wireless rival Three UK, owned by CK Hutchison Holdings, while Reuters and El Confidencial reported talks in Italy and Spain respectively.

Iliad is also considering buying a competing phone operator in Italy if the opportunity arises, local unit general manager Benedetto Levi said in an interview with Bloomberg News in January.

Iliad, majority owned by Mr. Niel, owns more than 30% of Eir, the Irish incumbent operator. Separately, Mr. Niel’s private investment vehicle also owns more than 30% of Eir.

Iliad entered the Italian mobile services market in 2018 as a no-nonsense challenger, sparking a price war that last year led to three profit warnings from former monopoly Telecom Italia.

Italy is one of the world’s most competitive markets for mobile services, with rivals such as CK Hutchison Holdings’ Wind Tre SpA already active.- Bloomberg

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