Telecom Italia SpA, Italy’s biggest phone company, postponed a plan for its board to vote on a reorganization as its biggest shareholders try to work out an agreement over the carrier’s ownership, according to three people familiar with the matter.
Directors including representatives from Telco SpA, the holding company that owns almost 22.5 percent of the carrier, still plan to gather informally Sept. 19 to review the new business plan as well as a shareholder agreement that can be dissolved this month, said the people, asking not to be identified discussing internal deliberations. Any recommendations from that meeting may be voted on at another board meeting on Oct. 3, the person said.
Telefonica SA, Telecom Italia’s biggest stakeholder with a 10.5 percent indirect stake held through Telco, is seeking to gradually boost its holding in Telco by purchasing shares of partners Assicurazioni Generali SpA, Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and Mediobanca SpA, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. The Telco shareholders haven’t been able to agree on a price so far, another person familiar with the matter said.
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Franco Bernabe is racing against time to seek fresh capital to avert a cut to junk of Telecom Italia’s debt rating. Talks in the past year to sell a stake to Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing and Egypt’s Naguib Sawiris have failed, and Sawiris said this month that while he’s still interested in investing in the carrier, he is put off by reports that Italy’s government prefers Telefonica as Telecom Italia’s owner.
Representative for Milan-based Telecom Italia and Madrid-based Telefonica declined to comment.
Telecom Italia fell 0.8 percent to close at 60.2 euro cents in Milan. Telefonica gained 1 percent to 11.31 euros on the Madrid exchange.