October 29, 2018 / 6:52 PM / 21 days ago

Telecom Italia warms to I Squared bid for Persidera stake - sources

MILAN, Oct 29 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia could pick U.S. fund I Squared Capital as preferred bidder in the sale of its stake in broadcasting unit Persidera at a board meeting on Tuesday, three sources familiar with the matter said.

Telecom Italia (TIM), whose top shareholder is France's Vivendi, is looking to sell a series of non-core assets, including its 70 percent stake in Persidera, to cut debt and fund the rollout of an ultrafast broadband network.

The former telecoms monopolist bid 2.4 billion euros ($2.73 billion) for airwaves in Italy's recent fifth-generation mobile auction and needs to find 480 million euros of that already this year.

"Telecom is leaning towards giving I Squared an exclusive," one of the sources said.

TIM and publisher GEDI, which owns the remaining 30 percent, have received two offers for Persidera.

Infrastructure fund I Squared Capital has made an offer for the whole of the company while Italian towers group Rai Way has only bid for its network infrastructure and related activities.

Rai Way's offer excludes Persidera's five multiplexes -- bundles of digitised TV services -- because it already has five of its own and antitrust regulations prevent it from owning more, a source previously said.

The sources declined to comment on press reports saying I Squared had offered just under 240 million euros for the business while the Rai Way offer valued the company at around 300 million euros.

A sale to I Squared would allow TIM to dispose of the entire asset and remove market risks related to operating the multiplexes, two sources said.

While GEDI cannot stop TIM selling its stake, it could opt to exercise a first right to buy the phone group's holding and possibly sell on the whole unit. It could also choose to remain a minority shareholder.

A third source, who said GEDI was still evaluating both offers, said Rai Way could relaunch its offer before Tuesday's board meeting. Persidera has also called a board meeting for Tuesday, two of the sources added.

Rai Way and I Squared could not be immediately reached for a comment. ($1 = 0.8780 euros) (Reporting by Agnieszka Flak and Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Adrian Croft)

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