Telecom Italia clears way for Vivendi domination

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Italian operator to sell stake in media services group, removing one bar to 24% shareholder Vivendi taking control

French media group Vivendi has come one step closer to taking formal control of Telecom Italia after the European Commission approved a move to sell its stake in a media company.

Vivendi owns 24% of Telecom Italia – the formal name of the company that now operates in the market as TIM and Sparkle – and is widely believed to be poised for a full takeover.

Earlier this month Vivendi put a number of its representatives on the company’s board of 15, including former Telecom Italia CEO Franco Bernabè, but also Vivendi’s CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine and its CFO, Hervé Philippe.

However there were two obstacles to Vivendi’s believed aim of achieving full control. First, it owns 29% of Silvio Berlusconi’s media company, Mediaset. The Italian regulator Agcom has told Vivendi to decide between Telecom Italia and Mediaset by mid-June, with a further year to implement whatever it decides.

Second, Telecom Italia owned 70% of Persidera, a media services company. A decision to sell that stake received the Commission’s approval yesterday.

The Commission said: “In order to address the competition concerns identified by the Commission, Vivendi committed to divest Telecom Italia’s stake in Persidera.” Reuters quotes analysts saying Persidera is worth €138 million.

Neither Telecom Italia nor Vivendi are commenting, but by mid-June, when Agcom’s deadline expires, the future of Italy’s telecoms incumbent should become clearer.