November 15, 2015 / 9:11 PM / 4 years ago

Vivendi seeks four Telecom Italia board seats

MILAN, Nov 15 (Reuters) - French media group Vivendi has asked to appoint four representatives to Telecom Italia’s board, the Italian telecoms group said on Sunday, as its top shareholder seeks a say over strategy.

Vivendi owns just over 20 percent of Telecom Italia after building on a smaller holding it received in June from Spain’s Telefonica as part-payment for selling its Brazilian broadband telecoms group GVT to Telefonica Brasil.

Telecom Italia said Vivendi had also proposed asking a shareholder meeting called on Dec. 15 to increase the number of board members to 17 from 13 at present.

Vivendi put forward as board nominees its Chief Executive Arnaud de Puyfontaine, Chief Operating Officer Stephane Roussel, Chief Financial Officer Hervé Philippe and French consultant Felicité Herzog.

The move comes after French tycoon Xavier Niel emerged at the end of October as potentially Telecom Italia’s second biggest shareholder thanks to call options relating to a 15 percent stake in the former Italian monopoly.

Italy’s market watchdog Consob is investigating whether Niel, founder of low-cost French phone group Iliad, and Vivendi, whose chairman and biggest shareholder is French financier Vincent Bollore, have acted in concert on Telecom Italia.

Both Niel and Vivendi have denied working together, which under Italian law would trigger a mandatory offer for the rest of Telecom Italia’s shares.

Vivendi’s CEO recently said Niel’s arrival at Telecom Italia had been a surprise that did not change Vivendi’s plan as a long-term investor in the Italian incumbent.

Representatives of Vivendi and Consob are due to meet on Monday as Italian authorities continue their investigation.

Consob met Niel in Rome on Nov. 3.

The Dec. 15 shareholder meeting has been called to approve a planned conversion of Telecom Italia’s savings shares into ordinary ones, a move that will dilute the group’s current shareholders.

Vivendi has backed the decision and said it does not own any savings shares. (Reporting by Valentina Za; Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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