Optical/IP Networks

Investors circle Italian fiber provider Irideos

While the Italian telecoms market continues to await the outcome of Telecom Italia's machinations to create a new single fiber player, Italian fiber network and service provider Irideos is apparently the subject of a takeover battle among investment funds.

Even if you have never heard of Irideos, you may recognize the names of some of the business-focused service providers that form its constituent parts: Irideos was created in 2017 out of the merger of Infracom, KPNQwest Italia, MC-link, BiG TLC and Enter.

Irideos now operates 15 data centers across Milan, Rome, Trento, and Verona; three cloud platforms; the Avalon Campus internet exchange and a 27,000-kilometer fiber network.

Spanish private equity firm Asterion, which already owns Retelit, has reportedly made a bid for Irideos.
 (Source: gualtiero boffi/Alamy Stock Photo)
Spanish private equity firm Asterion, which already owns Retelit, has reportedly made a bid for Irideos.
(Source: gualtiero boffi/Alamy Stock Photo)

The company is currently 78.3% owned by F2i and 19.6% by Marguerite Fund, the infrastructure fund created by six European public financial institutions and the European Commission.

Ties that bind

Irideos was apparently put up for sale in Q4 2021. According to Bloomberg, the latest offer has come from Spanish private equity firm Asterion Industrial Partners, which owns Italian fiber network operator Retelit.

Citing unidentified sources, the report says that Asterion last week submitted a binding offer for Irideos that could value the latter company at up to €400 million (US$429 million). Irideos is also said to have received binding offers from two other investment firms.

El Economista recently reported that German fund DWS Invest Global Infrastructure has made a bid for the company. Bloomberg has also previously cited interest from US investment firm Grain Capital.

Notably, Asterion-owned Retelit operates about 16,000 kilometers of fiber optic cables, 12 metropolitan networks and 18 data centers in Italy, according to its website.

Smaller rivals

The potential combination of Irideos and Retelit could provide an interesting albeit smaller counterpart to the single fiber provider being planned by Telecom Italia and the owners of state-backed Open Fiber.

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Telecom Italia (TIM) says on its web site that its fiber network extends over more than 21,000 kilometers. The operator is now hoping to merge with wholesale provider Open Fiber, which says it aims to install 114,800 kilometers of optical fiber.

When Enel sold its 50% stake in Open Fiber to Macquarie Asset Management and CDP Equity in late 2021, the energy group said 64,000 kilometers of fiber optic infrastructure had been deployed.

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— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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