CK Hutchison Reviewing $1 Billion Italy Tower Portfolio

(Bloomberg) -- CK Hutchison Holdings Ltd. is weighing options for its mobile phone towers in Italy, including a potential sale, as the conglomerate seeks to cut debt after taking full control of its wireless unit in the country, people familiar with the matter said.

CK Hutchison, led by Chairman Victor Li, is working with advisers on a strategic review of the Italian towers, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the information is private. A sale could value the portfolio at around $1 billion, depending on the assets that are ultimately included, the people said.

Options under consideration include a full divestment of the assets or the sale of a minority stake, one of the people said. The towers could attract wireless infrastructure companies as well as investment funds, the people said. Hong Kong-based CK Hutchison may start a formal sale process before the end of the year, though an exact timetable hasn’t been set, according to the people.

CK Hutchison is replenishing its funds after spending 2.45 billion euros ($2.8 billion) earlier this year to buy out partner Veon Ltd.’s stake in their Italian wireless venture. The CK Hutchison unit, known as Wind Tre SpA, bid 517 million euros in October for a chunk of high-speed airwaves to offer 5G services in the southern European country.

Deliberations are at an early stage, and there’s no certainty they will lead to any transaction, the people said. A representative for CK Hutchison declined to comment.

The review comes as CK Hutchison faces mounting headwinds in Italy. The company’s mobile subscriber base is shrinking and a new low-price competitor -- France’s Iliad SA -- just arrived on the scene, threatening to undercut the three existing operators Wind Tre, Telecom Italia SpA and Vodafone Group Plc.

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