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Deals

Tiscali replaces CEO, looks to M&A

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian broadband operator Tiscali TIS.MI on Thursday replaced Chief Executive Tommaso Pompei with board member Mario Rosso and signaled it is up for sale.

Tiscali will “explore options to create value for shareholders connected with the process of consolidation taking place in the European telecommunications sector,” the company said in a statement.

Pompei completed his two-year restructuring of the company and will remain a member of the board until the company approves its 2007 results, Tiscali said.

Speculation that Pompei’s departure indicates the $1.2 billion company will soon be bought sent the shares higher this week. At 6:44 a.m. EST the shares gained 1 percent at 1.9 euros in Milan.

Though Tiscali has said several times in the last few weeks it has not been approached by buyers, the names of Italy's Fastweb FWB.MI and British phone companies Vodafone VOD.L and BT Group BT.L have been circulating in the market as potential acquirers.

After years of losses and cost-cutting, Tiscali expanded again under Pompei in what investors and analysts have said was an attempt to groom the company for sale.

BT’s broadband market share in Britain, around 35 percent, is low compared with other former monopoly operators, making it a potential buyer for Tiscali’s British business, with another company acquiring the Italian unit.

Vodafone has bought the Italian and Spanish fixed-line business of Sweden's Tele2 TEL2b.ST, but Vodafone Chief Executive Arun Sarin said this month the company had "nothing to say" on Tiscali.

Tiscali also said 2007 preliminary revenues rose 34 percent to 910 million euros ($1.37 billion) while earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose 60 percent to 160 million euros.

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