BT finally puts the Italian Blu behind it

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The Independent Online

The fate of Blu, the loss-making Italian mobile phone operator in which BT owns a 29 per cent stake, was sealed yesterday after its assets were split among its rivals in a move that will see it shut down.

The fate of Blu, the loss-making Italian mobile phone operator in which BT owns a 29 per cent stake, was sealed yesterday after its assets were split among its rivals in a move that will see it shut down.

Telecom Italia Mobile confirmed it was making an offer of at least €18m (£11m) for the company's shares and some assets while other assets will be transferred to Vodafone's Omnitel, Hutchison's H3G and Wind, part-owned by France Telecom.

The move came just days after the European Commission gave Blu's shareholders the go-ahead to break the business up after they failed to find a buyer for the whole company.

A spokesperson for BT, which has invested £250m to £300m in Blu over the past three years, said yesterday it did not expect the break-up deal to be completed for another two months. BT, which continues to fund Blu to the tune of £5m a month, has already written off the value of the Italian venture in its books.

Telecom Italia Mobile said it would take on 700 Blu staff as well as various other assets including a call centre in Florence and 1400 radio base stations. Wind is taking on Blu's customer base, the Blu brand and some of the network.

Blu will also return its mobile licence to the Communications Ministry which is expected to reassign it to Telecom Italia Mobile, Omnitel and Wind.

Thecompany, whose future has hung in the balance since a shareholder rift left it without a third-generation mobile phone licence, also counts the Benetton family as a shareholder.

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