France-based Vivendi became the largest shareholder in Telecom Italia after purchasing a total stake of 14.9 per cent, replacing long-term investor Telefónica.
Vivendi gained an 8.3 per cent stake in the Italian operator as part of a deal covering the sale of Brazilian broadband company Global Village Telecom (GVT) to the Spanish group. It then purchased further shares to take its total stake to 14.9 per cent.
The French media group has also not ruled out a further increase in its stake, according to reports. Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine told Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera "never say never" after being asked if the company would raise its shareholding, Reuters reported.
Telefónica said it would make a capital gain after the divestment of all of its shares in Telecom Italia of €380 million ($425.94 million), which it would book in the first half of the year.
Telecom Italia has now exchanged one major foreign shareholder for another in a deal that could see Vivendi having some influence over the Italian operator's strategy, such as whether it should sell its Brazilian unit TIM Participacoes (TIM Brasil). Telecom Italia has continued to stress that it regards TIM Brasil as a strategic asset.
De Puyfontaine said he remained "open and very flexible" about the future of Telecom Italia's Brazilian business.
"The important thing is to take a decision that creates value in the long term...but we have to be pragmatic," he said in the interview with Corriere della Sera.
He added that Vivendi had decided to exit its own Brazilian unit, GVT, to invest in Italy, Reuters noted.
Vivendi has stressed that it intends to support Telecom Italia over the long term.
"Vivendi's capital investment in a major Italian company fits into the strategy developed by the group, which gains a foothold in a country with which it shares the same Latin culture and roots," Vivendi said in a release.
It added that the investment in the operator "represents an opportunity for the group to be present and to expand in a market with significant growth prospects and a very strong appetite for quality content."
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