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Villalonga cleared of charges

Courts did not find 'sufficient proof' of insider trading

MADRID — Juan Villalonga has been cleared of charges of insider trading, just one week after having been forced from his post as prexy of giant Spanish telco Telefonica.

The exoneration comes as Villalonga’s successor Cesar Alierta confirmed the purchase of U.S. Internet portal Lycos by Telefonica Internet operator Terra Networks.

The all-stock acquisition, valued at $2 billion, is scheduled to close in mid-September, Telefonica said.

Spanish press sources also suggested that Alierta will have remodeled Telefonica’s new executive team for presentation at an Aug. 30 Telefonica board meeting. Few analysts expect the reshuffle to include Manuel Garcia Duran, a close ally of Villalonga and the current prexy of giant Telefonica Media (TM). The leading candidate to replace him, per pundits, remains TM chieftain Juan Jose Nieto.

Closing its probe, Spain’s CNMV stock market regulator declared in a press release that it had not found “sufficient proof” that Villalonga had used privileged information when buying an option on shares in Telefonica during merger talks with WorldCom-MCI in early 1998.

Anticipating Villalonga’s exoneration, Spain’s opposition IU party dismissed the result as a political pay-off, engineered by the Spanish government to reward Villalonga for ankling at Telefonica July 26.

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