Hutchison, VimpelCom Said to Plan Italy Disposals to Sway EU

  • Companies hoping to win speedy approval for Italian mobile JV
  • Swisscom’s Fastweb and Iliad vying to become new operator

CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. and VimpelCom Ltd. plan to submit more concessions to European Union regulators within days, angling for a speedy approval of their deal to create Italy’s largest wireless provider by customers, according to two people familiar with the EU probe.

Swisscom AG’s Fastweb and Iliad SA are vying to take up a package of assets that would allow them to create a fourth mobile operator as Hutchison’s 3 Italia and VimpelCom’s Wind Telecomunicazioni SpA combine, one person said. Regulators so far prefer Iliad’s broader mobile coverage plan, the people said. Fastweb recently has raised its mobile coverage proposal to 100 percent of Italy’s territory by 2020, another person added.

Ricardo Cardoso, a spokesman for the European Commission, declined to comment because the EU’s assessment is still ongoing. Representatives for Hutchison, VimpelCom, Iliad and Fastweb declined to comment.

By lining up buyers, Hutchison -- controlled by Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing -- and VimpelCom are trying to avoid a rerun of last month’s EU veto of Hutchison’s bid for U.K. carrier O2.

CK Hutchison added 2.1 percent to HK$84.55 at 11:06 a.m. in Hong Kong. VimpelCom jumped more than 8 percent to close at $3.81 in U.S. trading Wednesday.

The companies hope to satisfy the EU before a deadline next week for regulators to send a statement of objections laying out reasons to block a deal, the people said on condition of anonymity because negotiations aren’t public.

While companies often manage to resolve EU concerns, a decision by the EU not to send objections means the 21.8 billion-euro ($24.2 billion) deal could be approved ahead of a September 8 deadline for a ruling.

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