Marco Patuano, CEO of Telecom Italia (TI), said the operator group may reconsider its plans to sell its stake in Telecom Argentina to investment fund Fintech if regulatory delays go on for too long.
TI agreed the $960 million deal with Fintech in November last year, but has been forced to push back the completion date twice this year, with the original August deadline recently extended to 25 September.
Media reports have pointed to Fintech’s ownership of cable assets in Argentina as a potential issue causing the delay.
Patuano told reporters at the Ambrosetti Forum economic conference in Italy that financial problems in Argentina caused the regulatory delay but that if they go on for much longer the deal could collapse.
Reuters quoted the CEO saying, “we can’t put it off indefinitely and in that case would reconsider”.
Fintech agreed to pay $860 million to obtain shares owned directly by Telecom Italia, as well as buying into units of the Italian operator that hold equity in the Argentinian incumbent.
The outstanding $100 million will be paid once various agreements have been met. This includes Telecom Italia continuing to provide its Telecom Argentina companies with technical support and other services for up to three years.
Telecom Italia is under pressure to cut its debt and lost its investment grade credit rating last year. The Argentina stake is an important part of the Italian operator’s asset sale strategy to raise €4 billion.
The company recently lost out on acquiring Brazilian fixed operator GVT to Telefonica, while the other Brazilian operators are reported to be looking to buy TI’s share in Brazilian operator TIM Participacoes.
Patuano said the sale of TI’s stake in TIM is an option but that it currently remains a core asset.