Telecom Italia defended a deal to sell infrastructure unit NetCo to a KKR-led consortium after shareholder Merlyn Partners’ preferred candidate to lead the operator’s board publicly slated its current strategy and pressed for an alternative focussed on technology leadership.

The operator stated there were various inaccuracies in details provided to La Repubblica by Umberto Paolucci, a former Microsoft executive who Merlyn Partners last month nominated to head a board refresh at Telecom Italia.

Telecom Italia stated all numbers relating to the NetCo transaction “are fair as confirmed by leading independent banking and strategic advisory institutions”. It highlighted figures released early last month showed an “expected leverage to 2026 at 1.6-times to 1.7-times” and asserted there are “no known delays” to the timeline for closing the NetCo sale.

The operator was responding to an interview with Paolucci published by La Repubblica on 6 April, in which the executive argued there is more value to be had by transforming Telecom Italia into a technology company.

He told the newspaper the so-called TValue plan offered an alternative in the case the NetCo sale did not happen, by instead creating a technology player which could lead Italy’s digital transformation.

It is the latest in a string of criticism of Telecom Italia’s plan to offload its fixed-line business by shareholders, with Merlyn Partners’ parent among them.

Paolucci reportedly advocated a sale of Telecom Italia’s Brazilian business, if only to fund investment in emerging technologies as part of a broader strategy to exit sectors where the operator could not establish a competitive presence.

The matters of leadership and strategy may well come to a head during Telecom Italia’s AGM later this month.