Telecom Italia sells Argentina unit for $960M

Telecom Italia said it agreed to sell its entire controlling stake in Telecom Argentina to the Fintech Group for a total price of $960 million (€712 million), confirming previous reports that it had received an offer from the investment company owned by Mexican financier David Martinez.

In a statement, Telecom Italia said Fintech will pay $860 million for its 68 per cent holding in the company that controls Telecom Argentina, while $100 million will be paid for additional agreements relating to the transaction, including an agreement to provide technical support to the Telecom Argentina companies and other services for up to three years.

The move forms part of Telecom Italia's efforts to restructure its business in order to revive its financial situation. New CEO Marco Patuano recently unveiled a new plan that will see the Italian operator invest €3.4 billion ($4.6 billion) in next-generation networks, cloud computing and LTE and raise funds of around €4 billion through the sale of the Argentina unit and other assets, and the issue of up to €1.3 billion in mandatory convertible bonds.

Following the statement about the bond sale and Telecom Argentina disposal, Telecom Italia said stock market regulator Consob and Italian financial police searched its offices for further information after shareholder group Asati said minority shareholders were discriminated against in the sale of the convertible bonds, Bloomberg reported.

Meanwhile in separate reports, Telefónica's CEO Cesar Alierta has said the Spanish company is not seeking to gain control of Telecom Italia, despite the recent agreement Telefónica reached to increase its stake in Telco, the holding company that controls Telecom Italia with a 22.4 per cent stake, and is also not planning a merger between the two companies.

Reuters reported that Telefónica will not exercise an option to increase its stake to Telco to 100 per cent, and Alierta said he expected other Telco shareholders to keep some or all of their stakes until February 2015.

"The structure of the new accords is very clear: Telefónica cannot own more than 49 percent of Telco," Alierta told business daily Il Sole 24 Ore, according to Reuters. "We have no intention of exercising the call (option)."

For more:
- see this Reuters article
- see this Bloomberg article

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