Telecom Italia’s CEO, Marco Patuano, sipped coffee and talked “industrial strategy” with new shareholder Xavier Niel, while separately chewing over the Italian firm’s options in Brazil.
Speaking to Reuters on the sidelines of the Morgan Stanley TMT conference, Patuano (pictured) said Niel was acting alone and not in concert with Vivendi, which holds 20 per cent of Telecom Italia.
Vivendi CEO Arnaud De Puyfontaine likewise denied any interaction with Niel earlier this week. In fact, the two look more like potential rivals in their stake-building in Telecom Italia.
For his part, Patuano struck an amicable tone about meeting Niel. “We had a cappuccino, a good one. He told me that he was interested in our industrial strategy and we agreed on the opportunity there is in Italy,” Reuters reported. Niel controls an 11 per cent stake in Telecom Italia.
Meanwhile, the TI chief is “open minded” about a sale or merger of its Brazilian business with rival Oi. A tie-up between Oi and TIM has long been mooted, but nothing has come to fruition. However, Oi has entered into a pact with private equity firm LetterOne whereby the latter would invest $4 billion into the debt-laden Oi if a merger with TIM goes ahead.
Patuano told the Financial Times a deal could happen next year, given that Oi needed to refinance and in light of the offer from the London-based private equity firm. “We have considered all the options, including the possibility of evaluating what happens with Oi,” he said.
The financial part of the deal, he suggested, could be less of an obstacle, given that “the LetterOne offer demonstrates there are people with money”.
Asked if Telecom Italia could sell the Brazilian unit outright, he said, “there is always a price for everything”. He added that he had spoken with the managing partner of LetterOne but that conversations had not moved to negotiations.