The Italian government says it will study any moves by Telecom Italia to sell off its mobile business TIM. The Financial Times reports that prime minister Romano Prodi is concerned about a foreign firm gaining control of the country’s largest cellular operator. Telecom Italia’s rumoured EUR35 billion sale of TIM has generated a great deal of interest from overseas investors, including equity groups in the US and UK. Deutsche Telekom of Germany has also been linked as a potential buyer, while Telefonica of Spain has ruled itself out. Italy’s government has already acted this year to block plans by the country’s toll road operator Autostrade to merge with a Spanish company.
Meanwhile, Prodi said the announcement had come as a shock, telling reporters: ‘My reaction is one of surprise. About ten days ago I had a friendly meeting with [Telecom Italia’s CEO] Tronchetti Provera and he gave absolutely no hint of such a radical and important restructuring, and of such a different strategy from that proposed a few years ago.’