* Says discussions with government ongoing
* Aims to lead Italy’s digital transition
* Open to infrastructure collaboration (Adds detail, quotes, spokesman clarification)
By Agnieszka Flak
TURIN, Italy, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia (TIM) intends to comply with requests made by the government under special powers to protect the former state telephone monopoly as a strategic asset, its CEO said on Wednesday, demonstrating a significant thawing in relations between the company and Rome.
Asked whether the company is considering appealing against Rome’s exercising of the so-called “golden powers” imposed last month, as suggested by a media report this week, chief executive Amos Genish told reporters not to believe everything they read in the media.
Activation of the golden powers, widely viewed as a signal of Rome’s intention to rein in the growing influence of French group Vivendi over TIM, allows the government to veto actions such as asset sales and mergers at businesses deemed to be of strategic national importance.
“We are in full collaboration with the government on how to implement the golden power,” Genish said. “We have every intention of fully complying with the golden power decision ... we are on a very positive track of discussion.”
A spokesman later clarified that discussions with the government are ongoing and no final decision has been taken on how TIM would comply.
Since taking over at TIM in September, Genish has sought to patch up relations with Rome, which had become particularly strained when French media group Vivendi became the company’s biggest shareholder.
TIM was hosting an event on digital transformation in Italy — a transition Genish said he wants his company to lead in close collaboration with others, meeting with approval from Antonello Giacomelli, the government undersecretary responsible for the telecoms sector.
Giacomelli, who was the first government representative to officially appear at a TIM event in three years, said TIM’s ideas now appear to be aligned with those of the government.
TIM is due to unveil either in late February or early March a new business plan to 2020, which Genish says will position the group as a “pure digital player and not a telecoms operator”.
Genish did not comment on how much the group intended to invest in the new strategy cycle but said one big change would be a focus on future-proof technology rather than legacy networks.
He reiterated that the company is open to collaboration with any party that would help to build the infrastructure that would provide the backbone of Italy’s digital transition, including rival Open Fiber, owned by utility Enel and state lender CDP.
“We are open to discuss any collaboration that is beneficial for the parties as well as the country,” he said, but declined to comment on whether TIM would pursue a merger with its rival’s network.
Some politicians and rival players have long called on TIM to spin off its fixed-line network, an asset some analysts value at up to 15 billion euros ($17.7 billion).
Genish last week said that while TIM wants to keep control of the network, it did not need to own it in full. ($1 = 0.8482 euros)
Reporting by Agnieszka Flak; Editing by David Goodman