Telecom Italia SpA (Rome, Italy) on Wednesday denied it planned to delist its media arm, after a report about a possible buyout sent shares in Telecom Italia Media SpA seesawing.
"The news reported by some newspapers about the delisting of Telecom Italia Media is without foundation," Telecom Italia said in a statement.
Press reports about potential ownership changes have prompted a surge in trading of TI Media shares in recent days. The stock went up 17.6 % on Tuesday, a rise partly prompted by expectations that one of Italy's most popular talk-show hosts might join the broadcaster and therefore boost its advertising sales.
Italy's MF newspaper reported on Wednesday that Telecom Italia, which owns 77.7 % of TI Media, could buy the rest of the company to have a freer hand in negotiating any deals.
On Saturday, Il Fatto Quotidiano newspaper quoted TI Media's chief executive as saying the company would have a new majority shareowner by year-end.
With reference to the press reports, Telecom Italia said on Monday that possible extraordinary operations concerning the media group were "mere working hypotheses."
Newspapers have cited publishing groups L'Espresso and RCS Mediagroup as possibly being interested in Telecom Italia Media and its flagship La7 TV channel.
Left-leaning group L'Espresso called the reports "fantasy", and an RCS spokesman on Wednesday denied the speculation.
Targeting an audience of professionals in their 30s and 40s, La7 has carved a niche in Italy's free-to-air TV market, challenging the duopoly of state broadcaster RAI and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's family's Mediaset (MS.MI) group.
La7 saw a 21.9 % rise in ad sales in the first quarter as its audience hit a record, and analysts expected a similar trend in the current quarter. Mediaset's free channels saw a 0.9 % drop in ad revenues in the first four months of 2011.
TI Media also controls music channel MTV Italy through a joint venture with Viacom and is considering selling its stake in the venture to the U.S. entertainment company.
(Reporting by Valentina Za, additional reporting by Claudia Cristoferi and Elvira Pollina, editing by David Hulmes and Will Waterman)