* Key is to keep control of the network, CEO says
* Political pressure mounting to split off network
* Italian regulator to decide on network by mid-2018
By Mathieu Rosemain
BARCELONA, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia (TIM) wants to keep control of its fixed network but does not need to own it in full, chief executive Amos Genish said on Thursday.
Italian politicians and rival firms have long called on the former monopoly to split off and upgrade its network.
The pressure has intensified since French media group Vivendi, Telecom Italia’s biggest shareholder with a 24 percent stake, began to exert greater influence.
“We want to control the network, we don’t want need to own it 100 percent. That’s it,” Genish told the annual Morgan Stanley conference on tech, media and telecoms.
“We don’t want anyone to force us to do that, we want to do it on our terms when we really believe it’s needed,” he added.
Genish, formerly an Israeli army captain and Vivendi manager, became Telecom Italia’s boss in September, with a mission to fend off rising competition in Italy, turn around operations in Brazil and smooth strained relations with Rome.
The new CEO said tensions between the two were over and stemmed from the absence of “an open dialogue.”
Italy’s communications regulator will decide by the middle of next year how to address competition concerns regarding TIM’s fixed-line network, an official said on Wednesday.
There are three options open to regulator AGCOM, the official said, including moving towards imposing a clearer functional separation of the network, which TIM values at up to 15 billion euros.
Whatever the outcome, Vivendi, which is controlled by French billionaire Vincent Bollore, is here to stay, Genish said.
“Vivendi is a full long term shareholder at TIM... (either) you like it or not,” he said. (Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain; editing by Alexander Smith)