TI may be asked to drop call option on Argentine unit, report says

14 Jul 2010

Telecom Italia (TI) could be asked to renounce its options to raise its stake in Sofora, the holding company that controls the Italian telco’s Argentine unit Telecom Argentina, Bloomberg writes, citing a report by Italian newspaper MF. According to the report, which does not state where it got the information from, the Argentine government may allow TI to keep its 50% stake in Sofora in exchange for allowing local investors to purchase the remainder. CommsUpdate reported last month that the Argentinean Court of Appeals cancelled a decision that restricted TI from exercising rights in its local unit and annulled a resolution which suspended rights to exercise and sell a call option on its 50% stake in Sofora, held by Grupo Werthein.

TI tried to exercise a call option for the 50% of Sofora it did not already own in January 2009, but the National Commission for the Defense of Competition (CNDC) froze the move, saying it would lead to the monopolisation of the telecoms market. Three months later the CNDC barred TI from making decisions regarding its local unit, stripping the company’s directors of their voting powers. The agency has claimed that TI’s indirect stake in Telecom Argentina violates anti-trust legislation, as Spanish telecom group Telefonica, which acquired a 24.7% stake in the Italian firm through the Telco consortium in October 2007, already owns Argentina’s other fixed line operator Telefonica de Argentina, causing cross-ownership issues.

Argentina, Telecom Argentina (incl. Cablevision), Telecom Italia (TIM), Telefonica Argentina (Movistar)