Vodafone Said to Mull Buying Metroweb Stake to Boost Fiber Lines

Vodafone Group Plc is considering buying a stake in fiber-optic operator Metroweb SpA to compete with Telecom Italia SpA in ultra-broadband services, three people familiar with the matter said.

A potential seller could be investor F2i SGR SpA, which owns 54 percent of Metroweb Italia, two of the people said. Metroweb Italia in turn controls 87 percent of Metroweb SpA.

Another potential acquirer is Telecom Italia, whose Chief Executive Officer Marco Patuano obtained a mandate from his board in September to make an offer for Metroweb, people familiar with the discussion said in October.

A purchase of Metroweb, which operates a network in the Milan area, would allow an acquirer to strengthen its broadband service. Intensifying competition and price pressure has caused Telecom Italia’s domestic revenue to decline seven consecutive years to 16.2 billion euros ($20 billion) in 2013 compared with 25.8 billion euros in 2006, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Spokesmen for Vodafone, Metroweb and F2i declined to comment. Metroweb Italia’s shareholders include state-backed Fondo Strategico Italiano.

Ansa reported earlier Vodafone may bid for Metroweb.

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