Telecom Italia Said to Mull Ripa as Telecom Argentina CEO

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Telecom Italia SpA is considering Elisabetta Ripa for the post of Telecom Argentina SA chief, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

Ripa, 49, currently leads Telecom Italia’s international wholesale and retail business arm and would replace Oscar Cicchetti as chief executive officer of the Argentine unit from January, the people said, asking not to be named as the deliberations aren’t public. The move would free Cicchetti, 63, to steer Telecom Italia’s wireless towers business in Italy for an initial public offering or sale, according to the people.

A Telecom Italia representative declined to comment. A year ago, Telecom Italia unveiled plans to sell assets including wireless towers in Italy and Brazil to cut debt. Last week, Telecom Italia’s Brazil unit Tim Participacoes SA approved the sale of almost 6,500 mobile-phone towers in the country to American Tower Corp. for about 3 billion reais ($1.2 billion).

Telecom Italia CEO Marco Patuano is seeking to reduce adjusted net debt that stood at more than $33 billion at the end of September and restore the company’s investment grade. He is also focusing on the Telecom Italia’s home market and on Brazil, where it controls the country’s second-largest wireless carrier, Tim Participacoes SA.

Shares of Telecom Italia rose 1.7 percent to 90.65 euro cents at 9:11 a.m. in Milan trading, giving the company a market value of 16.4 billion euros ($20.4 billion).

Last week, Telecom Italia said its directors will explore a potential transaction between Tim and smaller rival Oi SA. Tim and Oi combined would be the largest mobile carrier in Brazil by subscribers, surpassing Telefonica SA’s local unit.

Stake Sale

Meanwhile, Telecom Italia is trying to complete the $960 million sale of a stake in Telecom Argentina to financier David Martinez’s Fintech Group.

In October, Telecom Italia gave Martinez 30 months to complete the purchase of a 22.7 percent indirect stake in Telecom Argentina, a deal which has failed to win regulatory approval in about a year.

Ripa was born in Turin, Italy, and became head of Telecom Italia Sparkle SpA in 2013. Cicchetti has held a number of senior positions at Telecom Italia, which he first joined in

1979. He has been head of group special projects since January.