Italian government to discuss Vivendi's influence on Telecom Italia

FILE PHOTO: A Telecom Italia tower is pictured in Rome, Italy, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

ROME (Reuters) - The Italian government will meet on Friday to discuss the growing influence of France's Vivendi VIV.PA in Telecom Italia TLIT.MI and whether Rome can exercise special powers over the phone group, a government source said on Friday.

The government is looking into whether Vivendi, which owns 24 percent of the former Italian phone monopoly, breached an obligation to notify Rome of its effective control of a firm considered a strategic national asset.

“Today’s meeting shouldn’t be the decisive one,” the source told Reuters.

A second source said a bilateral meeting between French President Emmanuel Macron and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, scheduled for late September, could be key in deciding the matter.

“The meeting today is one of a series,” the source said.

Vivendi referred questions to Telecom Italia (TIM), which declined to comment.

The government’s investigation aims to establish whether the French media giant actually controls TIM and if Rome can exercise a so-called “golden power” over it, enabling it to veto certain operations including asset sales, merger and any change of control of the company.

TIM’s international telecoms service provider unit Sparkle is seen as a particularly sensitive asset because of its submarine network which connects to countries in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Americas.

Vivendi said earlier this month that it considered it had no “de facto control” over TIM under Italian law.

Reporting by Massimiliano Di Giorgio; Additional reporting by Stephen Jewkes in Milan; Editing by Stefano Bernabei and Susan Fenton