Vivendi chief says company is not acting in concert with Xavier Niel

Arnaud de Puyfontaine

Arnaud de Puyfontaine

Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine offered reassurance over the weekend that Vivendi is not acting in concert with fellow French Telecom Italia shareholder Xavier Niel. De Puyfontaine’s comments in an interview with Italian daily Corriere della Sera followed a warning from the Italian government after Neil moved to up his stake in the telco.

Niel, owner of French quad-play service provider Iliad Telecom/Free, has increased his stake in the telco to over 15% through call options and other positions.

Du Puyfontaine said that Niel’s move had surprised Vivendi, reiterated the group’s commitment to be a long-term investor and failed to rule out increasing Vivendi’s stake still further, following its recent upping to 20.3%.

Vivendi can raise its stake in the telco up to a limit of 24.9%, after which it would be forced to make a bid for the company.

The Italian government has reportedly indicated to Vivendi and Niel that it did not want to see the pair acting in concert.

There has been speculation in the Italian media about Niel’s intentions following his move at the end of last week. Financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore suggested that Niel could be looking to make a short-term gain, but that his ability to do would depend on where the shares he is acquiring come from, with the conditions on some ‘call’ options on shares implying that he would not be able to take actual possession until between June 2016 and November 2017.