Vivendi distanced itself from speculation that it is in talks with potential partners, including Orange, about mounting a bid to acquire Telecom Italia (TI).
Last week it emerged that French tycoon Xavier Niel has built up a 15 per cent holding in the Italian incumbent, making him the company’s second largest shareholder, behind Vivendi’s 20 per cent ownership.
Vivendi, which confirmed earlier this week it had not been working in concert with Niel following Italian regulatory concerns, has also denied French media reports linking it to separate partnerships with Orange and Egyptian telecoms entrepreneur Naguib Sawiris, to acquire the company, according to the Financial Times.
“Since we increased our stake, there has been a lot of speculation of Vivendi playing on behalf of Orange… but it has never been on the agenda,” said Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine.
“There has not been any discussions between Orange and Vivendi. The situation for Niel and for Sawiris is the same: there has not been a discussion with them about Telecom Italia,” he added.
Puyfontaine again did not rule out the possibility that Vivendi could increase its stake in Telecom Italia, consistent with earlier reports, which could see it hit a 24.9 per cent holding, the threshold before an investor is required to make a public offer for the company. However, he added: “It is not at all on the agenda. It would not be consistent with our position not to become owners of telecoms operations.”
Vivendi has spent more than €3 billion in recent months to increase its holding in Telecom Italia, with the operator key to its strategy for distributing content from its pay–TV business Canal Plus, as well as its Universal Music Group subsidiary.
Despite reported concerns from both analysts and investors over the strategy, Puyfontaine said Telecom Italia remains a long term content distribution play.
“There are common initiatives between Telecom Italia and Vivendi around bringing content to customers,” he said. “Having this stake is not getting back in the telecoms business.”