Sol Trujillo (pictured), former chief executive of Australia’s Telstra, is reportedly in talks with financial investors to mount an audacious $9.6 billion bid for a stake in Telecom Italia which would see him take the helm at the Italian incumbent and bring in his own managers.
According to Bloomberg sources and documents seen by the news agency, Trujillo has discussed the plan with New York-based financial advisers. Sovereign-wealth funds in Qatar and Abu Dhabi have also expressed an interest.
Trujillo has yet to formerly approach the Telecom Italia board with his plan – dubbed ‘Adriano’ – as it is not fully funded. Senior Italian government officials are said to be aware of project Adriano and open to the idea of a foreign investor in the national operator.
An investment of $9.6 billion would be equivalent to almost half of Telecom Italia’s market value. As of 30 June Telecom Italia had a net debt of $35 billion.
News of Trujillo’s plan coincides with the Telecom Italia board postponing a scheduled meeting today (25 September) as the $960 million sale of its stake in Telecom Argentina to investment fund Fintech still looks uncertain. A deadline for regulatory approval, set by the Italian incumbent, is today but none has been given at the time of writing. The board will now meet tomorrow.
Marco Patuano, Telecom Italia’s chief executive, has said he may reconsider plans to sell up in Argentina if regulatory delays go on for too long.
The Italian incumbent 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.
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 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.