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Italy's Wind Tre to spin-off network as it explores sale

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian telecoms operator Wind Tre is planning to spin-off its network assets into a separate company as it resumed talks with Swedish private equity firm EQT over a potential sale, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Like other telecoms operators in Italy, Wind Tre has been grappling with aggressive price competition that has eroded earnings just when heavy investment is needed to build a fifth-generation mobile grid.

Wind Tre's infrastructure business mainly consists of a so-called active mobile network - or antennas - which are distributed across Italy, and what is known as the "backbone", a portion of the landline network.

Spinning off the network could pave the way to M&A deals, including a potential sale of the infrastructure business, the sources said, cautioning that deliberations are ongoing.

The move comes as Wind Tre has resumed talks with EQT over a potential deal for the Sweden-based investment fund to buy into Wind Tre's network.

Owned by CK Hutchison, the ports-to-telecoms arm of retired billionaire Li Ka-shing, Wind Tre would shift some 2,000 workers of its 6,500 workers in Italy into the network venture, the sources said.

Wind Tre, EQT and CK Hutchinson all declined to comment.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Gavin Jones and Tom Hogue)