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Telecom Italia says to explore tie-up with Hutchison Whampoa

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Telecom Italia said Thursday it had set up a special committee to examine a tie up with 3 Italia, a unit of Hong Kong conglomerate Hutchison Whampoa.

Hutchison Whampoa has indicated it is interested in becoming the leading shareholder in Telecom Italia, either through a capital investment or merger, the former national phone company said following a board meeting.

The committee, headed by chief executive Franco Bernabe, is charged with "quickly examining whether such a transaction is in the interest of the company."

Telecom Italia's current leading shareholder with a 22.4 percent stake is Telco, which groups Spanish telecom Telefonica, Italian insurer Generali, and Italian banks Mediobanca and Intesa Sanpaolo.

According to the Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore, Hutchison Whampoa aims to acquire a 29.9 percent stake in Telecom Italia, a level which would not require it to make a public offer to buy shares from other shareholders.

In order to get to that level Hutchison Whampoa would need to buy a part of Telco's shares, likely those of the Italian companies.

Telecom Italia's board of directors also called on the company's management to examine the feasibility and develop an operational plan for splitting off its fixed-line telephone operations, an idea evoked last year.

The company suffered a net loss of 1.6 billion euros ($2 bn) in 2012.

Hutchison Whampoa, owned by Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing who is nicknamed "Superman" for his business prowess, has operations in over 50 countries.

It is active in telecommunications in both Asia and Europe, with its 3 Group Europe operating businesses in Italy, Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and Ireland.

The port-to-telecoms conglomerate earned a net profit of HK$26.13 billion ($3.37 billion) last year.

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Telecom Italia

Hutchison Whampoa

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130411/telecom-italia-says-explore-tie-hutchison-whampoa-0