As expected, the French media group Vivendi has become the largest single shareholder in Telecom Italia (TI) after raising its stake to 14.9%. The firm has not ruled out increasing its interest still further, with Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine quoted by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera as saying: ‘Time will tell, never say never.’ Vivendi has said that it is unlikely to up its stake in TI by buying shares directly from the telco’s other main shareholders, with the Italian investment bank Mediobanca having already ruled out a sale of its 1.6% holding to the French firm, according to a Reuters report.
As the main investor in TI, Vivendi could now have a major influence on the future of the Italian group’s operations in Brazil, where it holds second place in the mobile market via its TIM Brasil unit. Vivendi recently sold its own Brazilian telecoms operation GVT to Telefonica – inheriting an 8.3% stake in TI as part of the deal – and may now be considering pushing TI in the same direction. According to a report last week from Bloomberg, Vivendi chairman Vincent Bollore is keen to see TI work towards offloading its controlling TIM Brasil stake within the next two years, before merging with an unspecified European rival in the medium term.