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Vivendi stands firm that it does not ‘control’ Telecom Italia

The Vivendi office is seen in Paris on Wednesday, May 17, 2006.Vivendi has told Italian markets regulator CONSOB that it does not “control” Telecom Italia (TIM). The watchdog had asked the French company to clarify its degree of control over the telco.

In a letter delivered to the Italian watchdog via the French Autorité des Marchés Financiers, Vivendi said that “its participation in the telco is not sufficient enough to allow it to exercise, on a stable basis, a dominant influence at Telecom Italia shareholders’ meetings”.

The French media giant said that “all empirical data” including attendance at ordinary shareholders meetings and the result of votes on resolutions, “unequivocally reveal that Vivendi is not in a position to control Telecom Italia ordinary shareholders’ meetings”.

Vivendi distinguished between “control” as defined by article 93 of the Italian consolidated law on finance and article 2359 of the country’s civil code, and “coordination”, as defined by article 2497 of the civil code.

TIM had earlier said that the pair’s “coordination activity” was centred on two specific elements: strengthening the TIM management team with a senior executive from Vivendi to achieve greater coordination “between the industrial and commercial activities of the different companies, in the context of the existing strategic plan”; and the creation of a joint venture between TIM and Canal+.

The Italian government has shown increasing signs of concern about Vivendi’s influence over the national telco following the appointment of Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine as TIM chairman, the early departure of CEO Flavio Cattaneo and the appointment of Vivendi exec Amos Genish as its operations chief.

Some politicians have raised the prospect of government intervention in a company designated as of strategic importance to the state. The government would have the power to trigger its so-called ‘golden power’ to intervene if there was a clear threat to one of the country’s strategic assets. However, Vivendi has made no move that could be construed as posing a threat to the integrity of the country’s telecom network.