(Adds comments from Sawiris)
ROME/MILAN Jan 29 Italy would have no
objections to an investment in Telecom Italia by
Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris if he were prepared to put cash
into the business, a government official said on Wednesday.
"Investors who bring money are welcome," Deputy Industry
Minister Antonio Catricala told reporters on the sidelines of a
conference in Rome, in response to recent comments by Sawiris
who said he was interested in the former state phone monopoly.
Telecom Italia, controlled by Spain's Telefonica
together with three Italian financial companies, is carrying out
a 4-billion-euro ($5.5 billion) plan to cut debt and fund
investments as it seeks to reverse years of sluggish growth.
In the last few days, the Egyptian billionaire has told the
media he would be prepared to invest in the Italian company on
condition Telefonica withdrew from it. Sawiris also said he
would be interested in bidding for Telecom Italia's prized
Brazilian unit, TIM Brazil.
He said no talks were underway.
In comments emailed to Reuters on Wednesday, Sawiris said
instead of selling assets, Telecom Italia should cut debt
through a capital increase which he would be prepared to
subscribe to if Telefonica exited.
"(Telecom Italia) needs around 3-4 billion euros, which it
can raise through a rights issue," Sawiris, who unsuccessfully
attempted to buy a stake in Telecom Italia in 2012, said.
Italian politicians are keen to see more investments in
Telecom Italia's fixed-line network, Italy's largest telecoms
infrastructure, and safeguard jobs at one of the country's top
On Tuesday, Telecom Italia's chief executive, Marco Patuano,
rejected rumours the company could consider a rights issue to
cut its nearly 28 billion euros of net debt.
In the email, Sawiris said the Italian company should keep
TIM Brasil, its main source of growth, but should the company
decide to sell it he would be interested in making an offer.
Patuano, who took the helm at Telecom Italia in October
after Telefonica agreed to a gradual takeover of its Italian
rival, has said TIM Brasil is a strategic asset which could be
sold only at a convincing price.
The possibility of a sale of TIM Brasil was triggered by
antitrust issues after Telefonica raised its indirect stake in
Telecom Italia to 15 percent.
Both operators own competing mobile networks in Brazil and
the South American country's competition watchdog has ordered
the Spanish telecom giant to downsize its presence there.
($1 = 0.7319 euros)
(Reporting by Alberto Sisto and Danilo Masoni; Editing by Mark