Vivendi secures seats on Telecom Italia board and sees off shares threat

Telecom ItaliaVivendi has pulled off a surprise victory by securing approval of its plan to name four additional members of the board of Telecom Italia while seeing off a threatened dilution of its stake in the Italian telco.

Vivendi’s controversial proposal to increase the size of Telecom Italia’s board from 13 to 17 with the inclusion of Vivendi executives CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine, COO Stephane Roussel, CFO Hervé Philippe and consultant Felicité Herzog was approved by shareholders representing about 53% of shares represented at the meeting, despite some independent investors expressing strong disapproval in the run up to the vote.

Telecom Italia shareholders did however reject a proposal by Vivendi that its four appointees should be freed from non-compete clauses.

In addition to securing its additional four board positions, Vivendi saw off Telecom Italia’s threatened conversion of ‘savings shares’ into ordinary shares, which could have seen Vivendi’s stake in the telco reduced from 20.53% to about 14%.

Vivendi’s decision to abstain from the vote on the conversion of savings shares ensured that the measure did not reach the required threshold of approval by two thirds of shareholders’ votes, with 62.5% voting for the measure. Vivendi has insisted that it is not opposed to the conversion in principal, but that it wants to secure more information and is opposed to it being rushed through.

Telecom Italia president Guiseppe Recchi expressed his disappointment at the outcome of the vote on the conversion of savings shares.

Attention will now be refocused on Vivendi’s intentions regarding Telecom Italia. Vivendi has maintained that it wants to be part of the telco’s ownership for the long term. There has been speculation that Vivendi chairman Vincent Bolloré would like to be in a position to guide Telecom Italia’s strategy and potentially force divestments, possibly including its Brazilian unit, TIM Brasil.