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Investor express disquiet over Vivendi move on Telecom Italia

The Vivendi office is seen in Paris on Wednesday, May 17, 2006.A group of Italian and international investment funds have expressed concern about Vivendi’s request to have four seats on the Telecom Italia board following its acquisition of over 20% of the Italian telco’s shares.

As reported by Reuters, the group have written a letter to Telecom Italia president Giuseppe Recchi, CEO Marco Patuano and the company’s board, asking that Vivendi’s request by examined urgently, pointing out that it would dilute the representation of institutional investors on the board while giving Vivendi a disproportionate voice.

Four seats out of a proposed 17 would give Vivendi a 23.5% representation on the board. Telecom Italia has recently moved to increase its capital by an exchange of ‘savings shares’ into ordinary shares, which would dilute Vivendi’s stake in the company to about 14% if carried through.

Sources cited by Reuters have also said that Telecom Italia shareholders are concerned about Vivendi chairman Vincent Bolloré’s supposed closeness to Italian former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. Telecom Italia is seen as a competitor to Berlusconi’s Mediaset.

Vivendi earlier this week requested four seats on the Telecom Italia board for CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine, COO Stephane Roussel, CFO Hervé Philippe and consultant Felicité Herzog and proposed increasing the size of the board from its current 13 to 17.

Italian market regulator Consob is currently investigating whether Vivendi has acted in concert with French telecom tycoon and Free boss Xavier Niel, who has acquired options that could see him take a 15% stake in the Italian company.