Telecom Italia investor Fossati urges Telefonica to decide

MILAN, Sept 5 Thu Sep 5, 2013 12:53pm EDT

MILAN, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia investor Marco Fossati urged Telefonica to decide what to do with its stake in the Italian company and said time was ripe to join a consolidation wave in the telecoms industry.

"Telefonica must decide: either it sells its stake to make way for other telecom players or it merges with Telecom Italia," Fossati, whose family holding company Findim holds 5 percent of Telecom Italia, told Reuters on Thursday.

Fossati said time was ripe for Telecom Italia to change its shareholder structure and merge with another sector player.

He said he believed that the current Italian government would not stand in the way and block a possible merger with a foreign partner.

"The worst thing that can happen to Telecom Italia is keeping the status quo," he said.

Telecom Italia is 22.4 percent-owned by Telco, which is in turn controlled by Spanish giant Telefonica and Italian financial institutions Mediobanca, Intesa Sanpaolo and Generali.

Asked about a possible tie-up with AT&T or America Movil, Fossati said: "I believe a good industrial partner could help Telecom Italia grow and boost its share price thanks to industrial synergies."

Investors' expectations of a shake-up in the telecoms sector were ratcheted up this week when Verizon agreed to buy British operator Vodafone out of its U.S. wireless business for $130 billion, and Telecom Italia is seen as an early target.