Telecom Italia said its top shareholder Vivendi is not breaching Italian government rules aimed at protecting companies considered of national interest, despite the French group’s increasing influence over the operator.
According to Reuters, Telecom Italia commissioned legal experts to provide an opinion on Vivendi’s role at the operator, which faced scrutiny after the French media group also built up a 29 per cent stake in Italian broadcaster Mediaset.
Last week, Vivendi told Italian market regulator Consob it believes it does not exercise control over Telecom Italia, after being asked to clarify its position.
The Italian government is trying to establish whether Vivendi’s powers could enable it to impose conditions or veto decisions at Telecom Italia, and thus potentially threaten national interests.
Vivendi holds a 24 per cent stake in Telecom Italia, and increased its influence on the Italian operator’s board in recent months.
Arnaud de Puyfontaine, Vivendi’s CEO, is also serving as the interim head of Telecom Italia, following the departure of its own CEO, Flavio Cattaneo.
Vivendi’s chief convergence officer was also appointed as Telecom Italia’s general manager for operations.
In a legal document seen by Reuters, “two prominent Italian legal experts” said Vivendi’s role centred around management of the company, with no suggestion of changes in ownership or control of the company or its assets.
“The actions taken do not constitute events requiring any need of notification and are not susceptible to triggering the use of any veto power,” read the document.
Italy’s industry minister Carlo Calenda reportedly told la Repubblica the government planned to propose new rules which would force companies buying 5 per cent to 10 per cent of an Italian company to state their long-term intentions.