Eir owner Xavier Niel’s Iliad moves to shake up Italy’s mobile market

30 May 2018

Iliad’s Xavier Niel at LeWeb. Image: @jibees/Official LeWeb Photos/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Xavier Niel’s Iliad has launched a low-price mobile business in Italy.

A good opportunity to get a sense of the modus operandi of French telecoms billionaire Xavier Niel – the new owner of Eir in Ireland – has emerged, with Iliad’s move into the Italian mobile phone market.

This represents Iliad’s first foray as a brand outside of France.

The company will offer a mobile package of €5.99 per month with a view to win a substantial share of the Italian market and no doubt put pressure on leading operators Vodafone and Telecom Italia.

So, who is Eir’s new owner?

Niel owns 52pc of Iliad where he is deputy chair and chief strategy officer. He has a net worth estimated at €8.3bn and is also the co-owner of French newspaper Le Monde. As well as his majority stake in Iliad, Niel has a controlling stake in Monaco Telecom.

Last December, Niel’s NJJ Telecom Europe consortium was confirmed as the new majority owner of Irish telecoms incumbent Eir after agreeing to acquire a stake estimated to be worth €3.5bn.

NJJ now owns a 32.9pc stake in Eir while Iliad, which Niel founded and which is listed on the Paris Stock Exchange, owns 31.6pc. Effectively, the two entities largely controlled by Niel own 64.5pc of Eir.

The transaction was completed in early April.

Iliad is the parent company of Free, a telecoms operator in France that has about 13.4m mobile and 6.5m broadband subscribers. Iliad has a market capitalisation of nearly €12bn as of December 2017.

Iliad’s Xavier Niel at LeWeb. Image: @jibees/Official LeWeb Photos/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Updated, 10.35am, 30 May 2018: This article was updated to correct mistaken references to the acquisition of a majority stake with Eir as ongoing. A link has been included to confirm that the deal was completed in April.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years