Telecom Italia has agreed to a request from US-backed investment fund Fintech to extend the deadline to close the USD 960 million sale of Telecom Argentina by another month, until 24 October, to buy more time to secure regulatory approval from local authorities. At the same time, the operator confirmed in a statement that its management would “evaluate and define with Fintech possible amendments to the sale process”, without specifying what those amendments would be.
The announcement came after a 7-hour board meeting held on 26 September, which was dominated not only by the company’s options in Argentina but also by news of renewed foreign takeover interest. Just before the meeting, the head of Italian internet company ItaliaOnline, controlled by Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris, said Sawiris was still interested in investing in Telecom Italia, despite having an offer rejected in 2012 to buy a stake for EUR 3 billion. “We have always been interested in Telecom. The interest is there and this is known,” ItaliaOnline chairman Khaled Bishara told reporters in Milan. On the day before the meeting, a Bloomberg report claimed that US businessman Sol Trujillo, the former CEO of Australian operator Telstra, was seeking to raise EUR 7.5 billion to bid for a stake in Telecom Italia. A government source cited by Reuters appeared to confirm the interest in the Italian operator: “That Telecom is up for grabs is clear. It could even happen rather quickly,” said the source.
In addition, Italian business daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported that there has been close contact in recent weeks between Telecom Italia’s second largest shareholder, Marco Fossati, and Vivendi chairman Vincent Bollore about stabilising the shareholder structure of the Italian operator. Vivendi received an 8.3 percent voting stake in Telecom Italia from Telefonica as part-payment for its Brazilian broadband unit GVT, while Fossati retains 4.9 percent of the Italian incumbent through his Findim Group.