Telecom Italia’s new controlling shareholders could be delayed by regulators from announcing sweeping plans for the company, adding to uncertainty at the group whose shares were Tuesday trading at their lowest levels since 2002.
Telefónica of Spain and a group of Italian investors announced at the end of April that they were buying a controlling stake in Telecom Italia from Pirelli, the tyre group. People close to the talks said there had been hopes among the groups involved of securing regulatory clearance for the deal before executives departed for holidays in August.
But the people acknowledged Tuesday that permission, though still expected, may not now be granted until September or October. There are delays in Brazil in particular where both Telecom Italia and Telefónica have a substantial presence.
While clearance could still come next month, some of the new investors are growing impatient to inject some life into Telecom Italia, which failed to excite investors when it announced a business plan in March and has since been beset by uncertainty.
Telefónica also wants to forge an alliance with Telecom Italia in some technologies, distribution and other areas. But those talks have not been concluded and Pasquale Pistorio, who took over as chairman, said this week that other partners were also being considered.
People close to the incoming controlling shareholders say that new plans for the company are expected to be announced when the deal is approved. Any synergies from a Telefónica industrial agreement should help improve earnings prospects. Meanwhile, an executive search is being conducted to change some senior figures.
However, all that is on hold and investors have shied away from Telecom Italia shares in recent weeks, making the premium that Telefónica and others agreed to pay even larger. Other telecoms shares have also been weak lately.
Telefónica is paying €2.3bn ($3bn) for its part of the deal, which is the equivalent of €2.82 a Telecom Italia share or a 24 per cent premium over the price when the deal was announced. Tuesday Telecom Italia shares were close to plunging below €2 each. At their closing €2.04 level, Telefónica is paying almost a 40 per cent premium.
Telecom Italia’s board is holding a regular meeting Wednesday. Pirelli also wants to announce its plans for the €3.3bn it will receive. It has already hinted that it may buy back the 39 per cent of its tyre operations it sold last year for €740m to a group of investors.
The consortium which has bought Pirelli’s interest in Telecom Italia includes Intesa Sanpaolo and Mediobanca, the Italian banks; Generali, the insurance company; and the Benetton family. The consortium is forming a holding company through which it will become Telecom Italia’s largest shareholder with a 24 per cent stake.