April 14, 2018 / 12:47 PM / in 10 months

Activist fund SVM takes stake in Italy's TIM, backs Elliott

FILE PHOTO: A Telecom Italia tower is pictured in Rome, Italy March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - German activist fund Shareholder Value Management said on Saturday it had built a stake of more than 1 percent in Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) and supported moves by Elliott Advisers to shake up the Italian phone company.

“Funds sub-advised by SVM have purchased over 1 percent of TIM’s ordinary shares with the intention to pro-actively support Elliott,” SVM said in a statement.

It added that SVM was “carefully evaluating” whether to increase the stake beyond 2 percent.

U.S. activist fund Elliott moved on Telecom Italia (TIM) last month, declaring itself a minor shareholder and challenging the former phone monopoly’s controlling shareholder, French media group Vivendi (VIV.PA), to launch a major shake-up.

Vivendi is trying to stave off the assault and is looking to delay a shareholder meeting set for April 24 where Elliot wants to replace six TIM board members with well-known Italian business leaders in a bid to improve governance and strategy.

Il Sole 24 Ore reported on Saturday that investors holding a combined 68 percent of TIM’s capital had signed up to attend the meeting. The financial daily said Elliott “could already count on backing” of investors with 34-35 percent of TIM’s capital.

TIM has lost a quarter of its market value since Vivendi first took a stake in mid-2015 and increasingly tightened its grip on Italy’s biggest telecoms group, raising concerns in Rome over an asset it considers strategic.

“The investment in TIM is underpinned by the belief that there is a significant discrepancy between the current market price of Telecom Italia’s shares and the intrinsic value of the company’s underlying assets,” SVM said in its statement.

“SVM attributes this discrepancy to what can only be described as the ‘Vivendi Discount’,” it added.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Clelia Oziel

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