O2's owner has set the ball rolling on a strategic plan to clear legacy issues before either floating or selling the British mobile phone operator, according to reports.
Singapore's sovereign wealth fund, GIC, is working with private equity fund CVC to buy a controlling share in Telefonica's infrastructure division in a deal worth €1.5bn (£1.3bn), the Sunday Times reported.
The division of Telefonica in question – which owns a network of phone masts and undersea cables – is called Telxius and was the subject of a failed float last September.
And the reports indicate the Spanish telecoms giant is hoping to flog the business using the proceeds to pay down its bellowing £47bn debt pile.
Once complete Telefonica will turn its attentions back to selling subsidiary O2 either through a float or sale.
Who owns O2?
|1985||Cellnet established – joint venture (60:40) between BT and Securicor|
|1999||BT buys out Securicor, rebrands as BT Cellnet|
|2001||BT Cellnet spun-off into separate company|
|2002||BT Cellnet rebranded as O2|
|2005||Spanish firm Telefonica buys O2 in £18bn deal|
|2014||BT in talks to buy either O2 or rival EE, ultimately went for EE|
|2015||Three agrees to buy O2 for £10bn|
|2016 (May)||European Commission blocks Three purchase of O2|
|2016 (Sept)||Telefonica appoints advisers for London listing of O2|
|2016 (Oct)||Telefonica withdraws listing plans|
A £10bn sale of O2 to competitor Three was blocked by the European Commission last May.
Telefonica stepped up plans to spin O2 in the wake of the news, appointing Barclays to lead a raft of investment banks to run the deal.
The listing was put on ice in October, as the O2 float fell victim along with a host of other major names to concerns over market conditions.