Duo end talks over stake

An unexpected breakdown in talks between AT&T and the holding company of Telecom Italia over a stake in the Italian telecom-and-TV giant has once again thrusted Silvio Berlusconi’s name into the spotlight on Tuesday.

AT&T said it was dropping out of the bidding, citing regulatory uncertainties.

According to Italian newspaper reports, the media-tycoon-turned-politician is teaming with Roberto Colaninno, who ran TI in the 1990s, to bid for a stake in Olimpia, the parent company of the highly indebted Telecom Italia.

A potential bid by Berlusconi was cheered by political peers on the right, but it would still face steep regulatory challenges.

Last week, Communications Commissioner Paolo Gentiloni vowed to block any attempt by Berlusconi’s Mediaset to invest in Telecom Italia. It’s unclear if Berlusconi, acting independently of Mediaset, would have a clearer shot at TI.

AT&T and fellow North American telecom giants America Movil of Mexico and Telmex were named earlier this month as team set to buy a controlling stake in Olimpia. America Movil and Telmex were still in the running to buy the Olimpia stake.

While an acquisition would give the buyer under 20% of Telecom Italia, it would give considerable board control, crucial as Telecom Italia begins to expand further into new markets such as digital television and broadband services.

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