UPDATE 1-Telecom Italia says to rethink Argentina sale if approval delayed
* CEO Patuano says TIM Brasil core asset but sale option open
* Chairman Recchi says no contact with Mediaset (Adds detail on network spinoff)
By Stefano Rebaudo
CERNOBBIO, Italy, Sept 6 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia may reconsider the planned sale of its stake in Telecom Argentina to investment fund Fintech if the government in Buenos Aires takes too long to approve the deal, the Italian group's chief executive said on Saturday.
Telecom Italia, which agreed to sell its stake in Telecom Argentina to Fintech last year for $960 million, has already pushed back completion of the sale twice while awaiting regulatory approval. The deadline, originally set for early August, has now been delayed to Sept. 25.
Speaking to reporters at the margins of the Ambrosetti forum meeting in Cernobbio near Milan, Telecom Italia Chief Executive Marco Patuano said the financial crisis in Argentina had inevitably held up approval but that the deal could collapse if the government took too long to clear the sale.
"The sale was supposed to be completed in the summer when the country went through a major crisis and it's normal that it wasn't the main focus of attention for the authorities," he said. "But we can't put it off indefinitely and in that case would reconsider," he said, without giving details.
The comment reflected the pressure on Telecom Italia, which has debts of around 32 billion euros and which lost its investment-grade credit rating last year.
The sale of the Telecom Argentina stake is part of a broader 4 billion euro ($5.2 billion) plan designed by Patuano to help cut debt and fund investments needed to upgrade Telecom Italia's domestic assets and head off competitors. Continuación...