October 31, 2015 / 3:23 PM / 2 years ago

Vivendi CEO says long-term plans in Telecom Italia unaffected by Niel stake

MILAN, Oct 31 (Reuters) - Vivendi is a long-term investor in Telecom Italia and does not intend to change its plans after French telecoms tycoon Xavier Niel built a position of more than 15 percent in the Italian incumbent, the French group’s CEO said.

“We were surprised when we found out Niel had built a position in Telecom Italia. It was a real surprise but this doesn’t change Vivendi’s plans,” Arnaud de Puyfontaine said in an interview in Saturday’s Corriere della Sera.

The European media company is Telecom Italia’s biggest shareholder with 20.3 percent of capital.

On Friday it emerged Niel, founder of low-cost French mobile operator Iliad, had increased his stake in the Italian telecoms group to the equivalent of just over 15 percent through call option contracts and other positions.

Puyfontaine, who said he did not believe the move was hostile, confirmed Vivendi had not acted in concert with Niel.

“No meeting with Niel is planned,” he said.

Niel has not publicly stated his intentions but his arrival means fellow billionaire Vincent Bollore, the largest shareholder in Vivendi, will have to take him into account as Vivendi seeks to influence Telecom Italia’s future.

Asked if Vivendi could raise its stake in Telecom Italia, Puyfontaine said the French group remained a long-term investor.

“Never say never. Let’s see what happens in the future,” he said.

Puyfontaine said Vivendi spoke regularly to the Italian government and members of Telecom’s management who wanted to build a good relationship with the French company.

He said Vivendi also wanted good relations with Italian state lender Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP).

“I consider the CDP’s management as important market players,” he said. (Reporting by Stephen Jewkes, editing by David Evans)

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