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Italian telco to be sold ‘in months’

TI owns La 7, MTV Italia

ROME — A sale of the controlling stake in Telecom Italia, Italy’s telecoms and TV giant, could be finalized in the coming months, the deal’s chief negotiator, Marco Tronchetti Provera, said on Monday.

The controversial sale of an 80% stake in Telecom Italia’s holding company, Olimpia, could have a long-lasting impact on the future of Italy’s media industry.

Fearful that Telecom Italia could fall into foreign hands, politicians have been clamoring for a home-grown savior to acquire the firm, which would give the new owner 18% stake in the company but crucial board oversight as TI invests further in telecoms and digital and IPTV broadcasting.

A number of banks have expressed interest in the TI holding company, as has media tycoon and former premier Silvio Berlusconi. Despite the considerable regulatory challenges such a bid would set off, Berlusconi reiterated over the weekend that either through Mediaset or his investing arm, Fininvest, he would be interested in acquiring a “non-controlling stake” in TI.

For Tronchetti Provera, selling off Olimpia would generate much needed cash for Pirelli, the Italian tires-to-telcoms conglomerate where he serves as chairman. Pirelli holds the 80% stake in Olimpia put up for sale.

The sale would also end a tumultuous run for Tronchetti Provera heading two of Italy’s most powerful companies. Last week, AT&T, one of the favored bidders, abruptly pulled out of negotiations for the Olimpia stake; Mexican telecoms giants America Movil and Telmex remain in the running. Several media reports have also mentioned Spain’s Telefonica as a potential bidder.

Aside from its dominant control of Italy’s telecoms market, Telecom Italia also operates terrestrial TV web La 7 and MTV Italia.

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