Rome- 16 February 2023-Pietro Labriola, chief executive officer of the Italian telecommunications giant TIM, foresees a bright future for the company after above-expected 2022 results: “There are more lights than shadows ahead of us and our future will be better than its recent past", the manager commented in a call with investors.
In 2022 Tim exceeded the targets set in the 2022 guidance, that had been already raised last August, “thanks to an excellent fourth quarter compared to the previous ones”, Labriola explained. “A performance capable of pushing the group's service revenues to over 14.6 billion euros, +1.3 percent YoY, while total revenues amounted to 15.7 billion euros. Consolidated group revenues in the year have gone up 3,3% YoY to 4.3 billion euros, thanks to above all the acceleration of the development of Tim Brasil”.
And 2023 will be the year of the former tlc monopolist's return to growth in its domestic business, according to the ceo: the course is set in Tim's three-year Business Plan, approved by the board of directors. The ceo listed the main actions put in place in order to achieve the company’s goals: "We have laid the foundations for long-term change: the agreement with Open Fiber on white areas (territories not yet reached by ultra-broadband connections, ed.), the guidance updates, the revised agreement with Dazn, the establishment of the National Strategic Pole (a new society for cloud services directed to the public sector, ed.), and the sale of the share in Inwit." All of this, the ceo said, makes Tim today "more credible than a year ago and the market is starting to believe in our company”.
And then there is the chapter about the spin-off of the infrastructure assets into a separate company. Mouths, however, are sealed on the offer made by the American fund Kkr. Tim's top management is cooling down the curiosity about the matter: "I understand very much the interest there is around the divestment of Netco but today we will not make any comment on this and we will wait until February 24 when the board meets," Labriola pressed on the call. "In the last three years, telecommunications investments have been 2-3 times higher than utilities and Tim is the second largest spender in terms of Capex, regardless of the sector," he notes. But how have politics reacted? According to Tim's ceo, "the government is actively addressing the issues" of telecommunications.
It will be up to Tim's board and shareholders to decide whether to divest the whole company or keep a minority stake. For Labriola, "strategically and industrially, keeping a minority stake does not seem to be a viable option, but it depends on negotiations."
"In Antitrust terms," Labriola noted, "what is the advantage of keeping a minority stake in the network? Because I would have to divest myself of any kind of veto or voting rights, it will become a financial holding. In short, it depends on the negotiation," but - Labriola reiterated - "these are issues that need to be addressed in the correct venues."
Back to Tim's numbers, at the end of 2022 the company had debts for 20 billion euros, “growing compared to 2021 exclusively because of extraordinary items”. In order “to change the company's profile sooner or later," the manager pointed out, "it will take a major deleverage.
Furthermore, when asked about possible m&a action in the italian Tlc sector, Labriola foresees consolidation happening and thinks Tim will “play a role”: “in the three years of the plan something will definitely happen in case of a sale of the network, whick will trigger a domino effect."
The CEO, lastly, stressed, "The telecommunications sector is changing, we need new rules." "We are the second largest company in Italy in terms of investments in our country, second in terms of energy consumption, but despite this, no tax benefits are given to us and the sector. This is precisely why we are talking to institutions, to explain that telecommunications in Italy and Europe are changing, so a new industrial policy is needed. There is a need for rules to ensure that the sector can compete at its best". "Even the CEOs of the other Tlcs in Italy agree that there is a need to review the rules of the game," he concluded.
Meanwhile, Labriola recalled Tim’s strategies: "We want to create separate business units to increase optionality, creating a playing field to seize better opportunities for shareholders on the fly. Now we are talking about Netco because we have received an offer." Asked about Tim Enterprise and the offer that came from Cvc, Labriola points out that "we are not interested in selling at any cost. We are aiming at enhancing the value of the company." And on Iliad and interest in ServCo, "no negotiations or interlocution are underway with Iliad," he assured.