Board members of Telecom Italia are set to meet on October 3 to discuss options for the Italian telecoms incumbent amid ongoing speculation about its future ownership structure, according to Reuters.
Telecom Italia (Milan, Italy) has already scheduled a board meeting for this week and reports suggest that Spain’s Telefonica (Madrid) will make an offer to buy out other members of Telco, a consortium of shareholders that owns 22% of Telecom Italia.
According to Reuters, citing sources with knowledge of the matter, the Italian operator will reconvene on October 3 to make a decision on how to proceed.
Discussions are under way because of a clause in the Telco shareholder pact that gives investors their first opportunity to sell shares on September 28.
Press reports have indicated that Telco members including Intesa Sanpaolo (Turin, Italy), Mediobanca (Milan, Italy) and Assicurazioni Generali (Trieste, Italy) are keen to take advantage of that clause, with other investors on the lookout for opportunities in Europe and Telecom Italia wrestling with debt and facing an uncertain future.
Telefonica owns a controlling stake in Telco and has the right of first refusal over other shares that go up for sale, but any move for a bigger stake in Telecom Italia could face opposition from regulatory authorities in Latin America, where the two European companies operate rival networks.
Meanwhile, shares in Telco are also reported to have attracted interest from other sources, including US telecoms giant AT&T (Dallas, TX, USA), Japan’s SoftBank (Tokyo), Mexico’s America Movil (Mexico City) and Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris.
America Movil is said to have ruled itself out of making any offer while it concentrates on taking full control of Dutch incumbent KPN (The Hague, Netherlands) – in which it already holds a 30% share – while Sawiris has voiced concern that Italian authorities would block any move he makes, having been turned away in late 2012 when he offered to buy a stake in the operator.
SoftBank has already demonstrated its interest in pursuing opportunities outside Japan through its purchase of a majority stake in US operator Sprint, while AT&T has expressed a desire to establish a presence in Europe.