Telecom Italia CEO says met telecoms tycoon Niel to discuss strategy
BARCELONA Nov 12 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia Chief Executive Marco Patuano said he met last week with French entrepreneur Xavier Niel, who has been building a stake in the group, and that they discussed "industrial strategy" and the potential of the Italian market.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Morgan Stanley investor conference, Patuano said Niel, the 48-year old founder of low-cost French mobile operator Iliad, told him on Nov. 3 that he was acting alone and had not coordinated his move with Vivendi, which already owns 20 percent of Telecom Italia.
"We had a cappuccino, a good one. He told me that he was interested in our industrial strategy, and we agreed on the opportunity there is in Italy," said Patuano.
Niel holds the equivalent of an 11.2 percent voting stake in Telecom Italia, according to a regulatory filing, bought through derivatives and options.
His surprise arrival at Telecom Italia set up a situation where two French investors have sway over the group's future.
Vivendi, which is led by chairman and largest shareholder Vincent Bollore, said on Tuesday that it was mulling whether to ask for board seats at Telecom Italia.
Patuano said he would not be surprised if Vivendi did ask for seats although no request had yet been received ahead of a Nov. 15 deadline.
Vivendi declined to comment.
Italian newspaper La Repubblica reported that Vivendi could propose increasing the number of Telecom Italia board members from 13 to 16 so as to secure a presence on the board with the new additions. (Reporting by Leila Abboud; Editing by James Regan)
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