ROME (Reuters) - The head of Telecom Italia is set to meet Vivendi chairman Vincent Bollore on Wednesday or Thursday to discuss an offer for the French group’s Brazilian broadband unit GVT, two sources with knowledge of the matter said.
“Bollore and (Telecom Italia CEO Marco) Patuano will meet in Paris today or tomorrow to discuss the Telecom Italia offer for GVT though an offer won’t be formalised before the Vivendi board meeting on August 28,” one of the sources said.
A second source said the meeting takes place on Wednesday.
Telecom Italia and Vivendi declined to comment.
French millionaire Bollore, a long-standing investor in Italy, is a leading shareholder of Mediobanca, the influential investment bank that has for long been at the heart of Italy’s high finance. Mediobanca used to control Telecom Italia along with Telefonica and other financial players.
Sources told Reuters last week that Telecom Italia was in talks with Vivendi to buy GVT and beat a 6.7 billion euro ($8.9 billion) bid from Spanish rival Telefonica, which is also Telecom Italia’s biggest investor.
The sources said the plan, which could be finalised over the next three weeks, would involve an equity swap to allow Vivendi to acquire a stake in Telecom Italia.
Patuano has not ruled out a possible merger between the Italian group’s local wireless unit TIM Brasil and GVT but said he will not make any “crazy” acquisitions in Brazil.
The Latin American country is a crucial market for both Telecom Italia and Telefonica and still has growth potential, in contrast to relatively saturated European markets.
A tie-up between TIM Brasil and GVT would create a stronger competitor to Telefonica’s local unit Vivo. If Telefonica’s bid succeeds, TIM Brasil’s position would be weakened because it would remain the only mobile operator in Brazil without a large broadband business.
Italian newspaper Il Messaggero said on Wednesday that Patuano would meet Bollore shortly to discuss “an equity and industrial alliance” between TIM Brasil and GVT.
Telefonica last week made an unexpected 6.7 billion euros bid for GVT in a deal that would allow Vivendi to acquire an 8.3 percent stake in Telecom Italia.
Heavily indebted Telecom Italia, which is carrying out a series of asset disposals to fund investments, may have to launch a capital increase to buy GVT, analysts said.
“Given Telefonica’s 6.7 billion euro offer for GVT, we believe TI will likely need a sizeable capital increase to fund a competing offer,” Citigroup said in a note.
(1 US dollar = 0.7488 euro)
Reporting by Giselda Vagnoni and Gianluca Semeraro; Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Erica Billingham and Pravin Char