Telecom Italia Considers Fixed-Line Investment Plan – Trade Union

Telecom Italia SpA is considering boosting investments in its Italian fixed-line network under a plan which, if approved, could require a cash injection, a trade union official said after a recent briefing with management.

“Telecom Italia’s management will propose to the board on Sept. 19 an aggressive industrial plan to relaunch the company and make new investments,” Slc-Cgil trade union national secretary Michele Azzola told Reuters.

“Telecom Italia has been playing on the defensive for years,” Azzola said, noting that such an ambitious plan would likely require a capital increase to fund it.

Telecom Italia is seen by some analysts as a possible takeover target in a shake-up of the sector expected to be triggered by Verizon Communications Inc’s $130 billion buyout of British operator Vodafone Group Plc’s U.S. wireless business.

Telecom Italia Chairman Franco Bernabe said on Friday what came first for the company was a business plan, rather than a decision on possible partners, which in any case needed to be on an equal footing. The company could not be reached for comment on Tuesday.

A share issue could be a way for Telecom Italia, struggling under nearly 29 billion euros ($38 billion) of debt, to bring a new investor on board as its core Italian shareholders consider exiting their unprofitable investment in the company.

Trade unions were briefed about the possible investment plans by Telecom Italia’s management at a meeting last week, Azzola said, adding he did not expect the issue of a new partner to be decided at the Sept. 19 board meeting.

Telecom Italia is 22.4 percent controlled by Telco, a shell company owned by insurer Generali, banks Mediobanca and Intesa Sanpaolo SpA and Spanish telecoms group Telefonica SA.

The chairman of Generali said on Saturday he hoped Telecom Italia would benefit from sector consolidation opportunities, but if it did not come up with a convincing business plan, the insurer would need to sell its stake.

While Telefonica is expected to be in talks to buy out its partners in Telco, a source has said U.S. telecoms group AT&T Inc and Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris have also made approaches.

Source : Reuters