Vivendi becomes main shareholder in Telecom Italia

French media group Vivendi has raised its stake in telecommunications company Telecom Italia to 14.9 per cent under a deal in which it replaces Spanish telco Telefonica as its largest shareholder.

Vivendi said it has received 8.24 per cent of Telecom Italia as part-payment for selling Brazilian broadband group GVT to Telefonica.

Vivendi also raised its ordinary shares in Telecom Italia from the 1.9 per cent “recently purchased” to 6.66 per cent on June 22, representing a global cash payment of about €1bn ($1.12bn).

The Reuters news agency said the stake transfer by Telefonica came after it, Italian insurer Generali, bank Intesa Sanpaolo and investment bank Mediobanca decided to break up a project controlling 22.4 per cent of Telecom Italia. They are ending what has been a money-losing venture for them since they entered into the initiative in 2007.

Vivendi said in a statement: “Vivendi’s capital investment in a major Italian company fits into the strategy developed by the group, which gains a foothold in a country with which it shares the same Latin culture and roots.

“This investment represents an opportunity for the group to be present and to expand in a market with significant growth prospects and a very strong appetite for quality content.

Vivendi intends to support Telecom Italia over the long term.”

Telecom Italia has a presence in the Italian sports media market including mobile/internet rights to Serie A, the top division of domestic football, and digital clips rights to the Coppa Italia.