Vivendi Boosts Telecom Italia Stake, Extending Influence

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Vivendi SA raised its stake in Telecom Italia SpA to 14.9 percent as the French media group bolsters its influence over Italy’s biggest telecommunications provider.

Vivendi purchased 6.66 percent in Telecom Italia for about 1 billion euros ($1.1 billion), the Paris-based company said in a statement Wednesday. Chairman Vincent Bollore is seeking to reinforce his company’s presence in Italy and more broadly in southern Europe.

The investment is an opportunity “to be present and to expand in a market with significant growth prospects and a very strong appetite for quality content,” the company said in an e-mailed statement. “Vivendi intends to support Telecom Italia over the long term.”

Vivendi shares fell 3.2 percent to 23.64 euros at 11:00 a.m. in Paris while Telecom Italia shares were unchanged at 1.18 euros at 11:00 a.m. in Milan.

The French company’s latest stake purchase followed its acquisition of an 8.2 percent holding, making Vivendi the largest shareholder. The company received shares from Telefonica SA as an eight-year-old shareholder accord that kept Telecom Italia under the ownership of the Spanish phone company and a group of financial investors dissolved.

Telefonica said separately it had sold all of its remaining shares in Telecom Italia for about 1.03 billion euros, resulting in a pretax gain of about 380 million euros.

In Telecom Italia, Vivendi gains an ally with extensive broadband and wireless networks and tens of millions of customers. Vivendi, which owns France’s largest pay-TV provider Canal Plus, has said it’s seeking partners to help distribute its sports programs, TV series and music.

Bollore is the second-largest investor in Mediobanca, Italy’s biggest publicly traded investment bank.

(Updates shares, shareholdings starting in third paragraph.)
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