Telecom Italia may reconsider Argentina deal if approval takes too long

Telecom Italia indicated that it might reconsider the planned sale of its stake in Telecom Argentina if the government there takes too long to approve the deal.

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Telecom Italia CEO Marco Patuano

CEO Marco Patuano told reporters over the weekend that while some delay was understandable due to a financial crisis in Argentina, further significant delay could cause the deal to collapse, Reuters reported.

The Italian operator has already been forced to delay the completion of the deal twice, with Sept. 25 now set as the completion date. Telecom Italia last year agreed to sell its stake in its Argentine unit to Fintech for $960 million (€742 million) as part of efforts to reduce overall group debt.

Telecom Italia now has debts of around €32 billion ($41 billion) and is under pressure to improve its financial standing after its credit rating was reduced to junk status last year. Patuano has previously outlined a €4 billion plan to help the company cut debt and improve its domestic network assets.

While the sale of the Argentine unit remains an important part of the plan to cut debt, Patuano told Reuters that the company's Brazilian unit TIM Brasil remained a core asset, although he said a sale was one of several options.

Telecom Italia's Brazilian strategy remains uncertain, however, after its plan to buy Brazilian broadband operator GVT and merge it with TIM Brasil failed: GVT parent company Vivendi opted for exclusive talks with Telefónica, which offered €7.45 billion including €4.66 billion in cash for the unit. Telecom Italia's offer represented a total enterprise value of €7 billion.

For more:
- see this Reuters article

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