Italy PM Letta says government takes no side over Telecom Italia

BRUSSELS Fri Dec 20, 2013 8:15am EST

BRUSSELS Dec 20 (Reuters) - Prime Minister Enrico Letta pledged on Friday to protect investment in Italy's telecommunications network but said the government took no side in a dispute over the role of Telecom Italia's main shareholder, Spanish group Telefonica.

"Telecom Italia is a private company. There are market rules which have to be respected. The market is open to international and foreign investors," he told reporters.

"The network is a strategic asset for the country, even if it's privately held," he said, adding that the government was "absolutely committed to guaranteeing the maximum level of investment".

He rejected a proposal from a senator in his own centre-left Democratic Party to change the threshold at which an investor is obliged to make a full takeover offer, generally seen as a means of making it more difficult for Telefonica to acquire full control of Telecom Italia.

"The government does not support any player on the field. I don't think parliament should pass laws which helps one particular player against another," he said.