Fastweb, the Italian telecoms company, is looking to deepen its collaboration with Vodafone but is not planning a sale to the UK mobile phone group or others, according to its founder.
Silvio Scaglia, Fastweb’s chairman, told the Financial Times that the company was considering extending its alliance with Vodafone so as to offer mobile services to its customers by using the UK group’s cellular network in Italy.
Vodafone might also benefit through a wholesale deal with Fastweb under which it could use the Italian company’s fixed-line network to sell broadband services to customers, he added.
Mr Scaglia dismissed stock market speculation over recent months that Fastweb could be sold to Vodafone, whose Italian business is the most profitable of its core European operations.
He said Fastweb, which is Italy’s second biggest fixed line telecoms company, was confident it could remain independent, and that “no contacts” had been made with Vodafone about a possible sale.
“All the contacts we have are purely commercial,” said Mr Scaglia. “There is probably scope eventually to expand this partnership.”
However, Mr Scaglia, who owns 25 per cent of Fastweb’s shares, did not rule out eventually selling some of his stake to finance Babel Networks, an online video-on-demand service.
In September, Vodafone and Fastweb announced an agreement to sell customers a combination of mobile and fixed line broadband services under the Vodafone Casa Fastweb brand.
Vodafone said: “We are happy with our relationship with Fastweb and are looking to deepen our commercial co-operation.”
Fastweb will report its fourth quarter and full-year results today, and Mr Scaglia said the company’s operating performance was “extremely good”.
Vodafone’s German and Italian businesses have been spearheading its efforts to persuade customers to use their mobiles more and their fixed-line phones less.
The initiatives are central to Vodafone’s attempts to reverse slowing revenue growth in European markets that are saturated with mobiles.
The Vodafone Casa deal, which had 362,000 customers at September 30, enables them to make mobile calls at home at lower rates than outside. The rates match those for fixed-line phones.
Vodafone Casa Fastweb extended the deal to include high-speed internet access over fixed lines.
But the latest refinement to the deal, known as Vodafone Casa Numero Fisso, suffered a setback in November.
The deal was meant to allow customers to transfer fixed-line phone numbers to their mobiles, but a court ruling stalled the plans.
In December Italy’s ministry of communications authorised a 60-day trial of Vodafone Casa Numero Fisso, which ends on February 15.