By Foo Yun Chee and Elvira Pollina
BRUSSELS/MILAN (Reuters) – Vodafone and Telecom Italia (TIM) are set to secure conditional EU antitrust approval to create Europe’s biggest mobile towers company, part of a strategy to roll out lucrative 5G services, sources said on Thursday.
The companies announced a plan last July to create Italy’s largest mobile towers group through the transfer of Vodafone’s Italian mobile masts to INWIT, TIM’s 60%-owned subsidiary.
When the 10-billion-euro ($11.2 billion) merger is complete, TIM and Vodafone will each have a 37.5% stake and equal governance rights in the enlarged INWIT.
The telecoms providers last month offered to give rivals access to some of their infrastructure for up to nine years to address EU antitrust concerns.
This included making available between 400 and 630 sites annually in towns with more than 35,000 people to allow rivals to provide current and future mobile and fixed telephony services, according to an EU document seen by Reuters.
The European Commission, which will issue its decision on Friday, declined to comment. The companies also declined to comment.
The deal includes a network sharing agreement and a partnership to roll out 5G infrastructure jointly across Italy.
The telecoms industry sees deals such as combining towers or sharing networks as a way to reduce debt and share costs, as well as a way of getting around EU antitrust regulators’ reluctance to clear mergers that reduce the number of players in a market.
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels and Elvira Pollina in Milan; Editing by Marine Strauss, Kirsten Donovan)