MILAN: Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris and US telecoms giant AT&T have contacted the core investors who want to sell their shares in Telecom Italia, a source close to the situation said.
The same source earlier said Mexico’s America Movil had been interested, though the Mexican telecoms giant owned by tycoon Carlos Slim denied it had had any contact. There had been no formal expression of interest in buying the stakes, said the source, who is familiar with the thinking of Telecom Italia shareholders.
Investors’ expectations of a shake-up in the telecoms sector were ratcheted up this week when Verizon Communications agreed to buy British operator Vodafone out of its US wireless business for $130bn, and Telecom Italia is seen as an early target.
The board of Telecom Italia is meeting on September 19, and its Chairman Franco Bernabe is seeking a new investor ahead of the meeting. AT&T declined to comment. Sawiris was not immediately available for comment.
“I can categorically deny that,” America Movil Chief Financial Officer Carlos Garcia Moreno said. “We have not had any contact.” Bernabe, who has been at the helm of the debt-laden Italian telco since 2008, was giving nothing away.
“Whatever is decided, if there is anything to be decided, will be discussed at the appropriate time and namely at the board meeting of September. 19 of Telecom Italia and the following ones. So there will be lots of time to discuss,” he told reporters at the sidelines of a telecoms conference in Brussels.
Shareholders have so far shot down two merger plans that Bernabe brought to the board. The first was a proposal last year of Sawiris taking a stake through a ¤3bn capital hike, while the second involved a merger with Hutchison Whampoa’s Italian mobile unit.