Telecom Italia interests Sistema

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Sistema, the Russian group controlled by billionaire businessman Vladimir Yevtushenkov, Friday became the latest to declare an interest in buying a stake in Telecom Italia.

The announcement followed news last week that Hinduja of India is also interested and Blackstone, the private equity group, also expressed an interest recently.

Pirelli, the tyre and real estate group, has said it wants to sell some of its 18 per cent stake in Telecom Italia, which it controls through a holding company.

Pirelli said Friday that its willingness “to evaluate the entry of new minority shareholders . . . has led to various contacts with interested parties. At the moment, however, no understandings or agreements of any kind exist, even of a preliminary nature”.

One obstacle to a deal could be price. Pirelli has the Telecom Italia holding on its books at a value far higher than the market price of Telecom Italia shares.

Sistema confirmed Friday that it was interested in taking a stake but said this would not necessarily lead to a deal.

“We definitely are interested in this company, however nothing has been agreed so far,” Alexander Goncharuk, Sistema’s president, was quoted as saying by Kommersant, the Russian business daily.

Last year, Sistema approached Deutsche Telekom about an asset swap but the offer was rebuffed.

Swapping Russian assets for a stake in a foreign group is seen as a way for Russian “oligarchs” to safeguard ownership ahead of next year’s Russian presidential elections.

London-listed Sistema is planning a London and Moscow dual listing for its technology subsidiary JSC Sitronics in March.

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