Banking groups Intesa Sanpaolo and Mediobanca have announced their intention to withdraw from Telco, a consortium which holds a 22.4 per cent stake In Telecom Italia. Italian insurer Generali, another Telco shareholder, announced it was heading for the exit door last week.
Intesa and Mediobanca each hold around 7.3 per cent in Telco (equivalent to a direct 1.6 per cent stake in Telecom Italia). Generali owns 19.3 per cent (a direct stake of about 4.3 per cent).
Exercising an option to dissolve the seven-year Telco pact, the three firms are throwing in the towel on telecoms investment to focus on their core businesses.
Reuters speculates that Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris could be an interested buyer. He recently talked of a possible €2 billion investment in Telecom Italia, but on the condition of Telefonica’s withdrawal.
Telefonica holds the remaining shares in Telco (about 66 per cent), giving the Spanish and Latin American giant a 15 per cent direct stake in the Italian incumbent.
The Spanish incumbent tightened its grip on Telecom Italia last September when it raised its Telco stake from 46 per cent to 66 per cent, sparking some domestic political opposition. Although Telco has a minority shareholding in Telecom Italia, it wields disproportionate power on appointments to the board.
Over in Brazil, Cade, the country’s anti-trust watchdog, is also worried about Telefonica’s increased influence over Telecom Italia (a majority shareholder in Telecom Brasil) and what it sees as the Spanish incumbent’s dangerous stranglehold on the mobile market.
Telefonica, which also wholly-owns Vivo – Brazil’s largest mobile operator in terms of subscribers – has more than half the country’s mobile market when taking into account its direct and indirect stakes in TIM Brasil.
Earlier this month Telefonica lost an appeal against a December ruling by Cade to scale back its operations in the country, meaning it must either exit its stakeholdings in Tim Brasil or get a new partner for its Vivo mobile subsidiary.
According to local reports it seems Telefonica favours the former option, although Telecom Italia has long insisted that its majority shareholding in TIM Brasil is a strategic asset. It would be unwilling to see its Brazilian subsidiary dismantled.