Italy's Treasury bids for Telecom Italia submarine cable unit Sparkle

Credit: REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

Adds second source on structure of deal, TIM statement

ROME, Feb 1 (Reuters) - Italy's Treasury has submitted a buyout bid for the Telecom Italia (TIM) TLIT.MI submarine cable unit Sparkle, in a move which meshes with the Italian government's efforts to secure control of an asset deemed as strategic.

Statements from the Treasury and the company did not give a value for the proposed offer, but a person briefed on the matter said it would value Sparkle at up to 750 million euros ($810 million), including debt and variable components.

For its part, TIM said its board of directors would examine the Treasury's offer at a meeting on Feb.7 and that the offer is valid for 15 days.

The company added that the Treasury's proposal includes an option to negotiate a different structure of the deal with a potential improvement of its financial terms, if TIM retains a minority stake in Sparkle for a certain period.

TIM has pegged a valuation of nearly 1 billion euros for the unit, sources have previously said.

The sale of Sparkle, whose network extends over 600,000 km and transmits information between countries in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Americas, is part of TIM CEO Pietro Labriola's plan to part ways with the former phone monopoly's fixed network assets to cut its debt pile.

In November, TIM agreed to sell its domestic fixed-line network to KKR in a deal worth up to 22 billion euros, and part of an agreement with the Treasury to take over the infrastructure.

Since then, TIM has been in talks with KKR over a separate bid for Sparkle. KKR and the ministry ultimately agreed the Treasury would directly press ahead with the bid for the sub-sea unit cable, a second source briefed on the matter said.

That was in line with an agreement with KKR, sealed in August, enabling the government to take full control of the unit. ($1 = 0.9258 euros)

(Reporting by Giuseppe Fonte, Elvira Pollina; Editing by Gavin Jones, Edmund Klamann and Keith Weir)

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