KKR to Invite Saudi Wealth Fund to Back Telecom Italia Bid

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(Bloomberg) — KKR & Co. has reached out to Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund as it seeks co-investors to join its proposed acquisition of Telecom Italia SpA, people with knowledge of the matter said. 

KKR approached the Public Investment Fund, which is chaired by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, to gauge its interest in providing capital for the bid, according to the people. It has also held talks with other sovereign wealth funds and infrastructure investors about teaming up, the people said, asking not to be identified because the information is private. 

The PIF would take a passive role in any deal, the people said. Discussions are ongoing, and the Saudi fund hasn’t decided yet whether to join the KKR consortium, the people said. 

Sovereign wealth funds are increasingly playing an important role supporting private equity firms on large takeover bids. The Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Singapore’s GIC Pte backed the more than $30 billion acquisition of Medline Industries Inc. last year by a group of buyout firms. 

Representatives for KKR and the PIF declined to comment, while a spokesperson for Telecom Italia didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. 

KKR made a preliminary takeover proposal for Telecom Italia in November valued at about 10.8 billion euros ($12.2 billion). The private equity firm said last month that it’s pursuing a friendly bid and wants to work to gain the board’s support for its offer. 

Telecom Italia has picked Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and LionTree to advise on KKR’s proposal, as well as to explore alternatives. New York-based KKR faces a big hurdle in the form of France’s Vivendi SE, Telecom Italia’s largest investor, which has said it’s in for the long haul and has no plans to sell its stake. 

Vivendi has also insisted that the KKR bid doesn’t reflect Telecom Italia’s fair value. KKR has been discussing with advisers how much it would need to increase its bid to win over reticent shareholders, Bloomberg News has reported.

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