June 11, 2014 / 3:15 PM / 4 years ago

Telecom Italia CEO says timing of Argentina sale uncertain

* Deal still awaiting green light from Argentinian regulator

* Investors could expect news on deal in Q3 - Tel Argentina

* Telecom Italia to cash in over $800 mln after completion

ROME, June 11 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia CEO Marco Patuano was unable to say on Wednesday when the Italian telecoms group would complete the $960 million sale of its Argentinian unit, suggesting that finalising deal may be taking longer than thought.

Telecom Italia agreed to sell its stake in Telecom Argentina to the Fintech investment company of Mexican billionaire David Martinez in November 2013, saying the deal was subject to a green light from local regulators.

Speaking on the margins of an event in Rome, Patuano said he saw no obstacles to completing the transaction. Asked to give a specific timeframe he replied: “It is never possible to have a date when you deal with regulators”.

“I’ve been in Argentina in the last few days speaking to authorities: there are no obstacles and we are going ahead, the only thing that is missing is a decision from (Argentina’s telecoms authority) Secom,” he added.

In March, finance chief Piergiorgio Peluso said Telecom Italia had already cashed in a first tranche of $109 million related to the deal, with the balance expected within the first half of 2014.

The sale of Telecom Argentina is part of a 4 billion-euro ($5.4 billion) plan designed by Patuano to help cut debt and fund investments needed to upgrade Telecom Italia’s domestic assets and head off competitors.

Telecom Argentina CEO Stefano De Angelis said last month investors could expect some news on the sale in the third quarter given that the contract envisaged an August deadline. A completion of the deal could also trigger a takeover offer for Telecom Argentina by U.S.-based Fintech.

$1 = 0.7345 Euros Reporting by Alberto Sisto and Danilo Masoni; Editing by Mark Potter

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