Vivendi confirmed it has taken a 14.9 per cent stake in Telecom Italia (TI), so replacing Telefonica as the Italian incumbent’s largest shareholder.
It received a stake of 8.24 per cent in TI in exchange for 4.5 per cent of the share capital of Telefonica Brasil, in accordance with the option given it as part of the sale of Brazilian broadband group GVT to Telefonica.
Separately, Vivendi spent €1 billion to increase its recently purchased holding from 1.9 per cent with an additional stake of 4.76 per cent purchased on 22 June.
The move may come as a surprise as over the past two years the group sold off assets in telecoms companies to focus on content and media, but a spokesperson told Mobile World Live that the move is part of an “opportunistic and pragmatic” approach.
“Our core business is media and content and development in that field but at the same time we see a huge potential in Telecom Italia and in Italy,” he said, adding that the company had the financial means to become the biggest shareholder and decided to go for it.
“Vivendi’s capital investment in a major Italian company fits into the strategy developed by the group, which gains a foothold in a country with which it shares the same Latin culture and roots,” the company’s statement said.
“This investment represents an opportunity for the Group to be present and to expand in a market with significant growth prospects and a very strong appetite for quality content,” it added.
Asked if the company would increase its stake further, CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine told Italian daily Corriere della Sera: “Time will tell, never say never.”
Last week, Vivendi said it wanted TI to sell its Brazilian business and focus on its home market and southern Europe but De Puyfontaine said he was “open and very flexible” regarding such a move.
“The important thing is to take a decision that creates value in the long term … but we have to be pragmatic,” he said.