SAO PAULO (Reuters) - Telecom Italia SpA (TLIT.MI) is more likely to consider mergers and acquisitions in Europe than in Brazil, where it plans to invest in boosting network coverage and quality, Chief Executive Officer Marco Patuano said in an interview published in a Brazilian newspaper on Monday.
A price war was encouraging industry consolidation in Europe, where only a few, financially strong players would be able to grow, Patuano told Valor Econômico. He did not name any specific acquisition targets for Telecom Italia.
In Brazil, Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) controls about 67 percent of the country’s second-largest wireless carrier, TIM Participações SA (TIMP3.SA). While both companies have analysed the feasibility of a combination with a rival in Latin America’s largest economy, the moment was not ripe for a move, he said.
“Telecom Italia’s style is to stand still in the middle of the storm,” Valor quoted Patuano as saying. “At this moment, the situation suggests that the best option for us is to focus on TIM.”
Calls to TIM Participações’ press office to confirm Patuano’s comments went unanswered.
Patuano, who last week was in Brazil with Telecom Italia Chairman Giuseppe Recchi, said any merger or acquisition activity in Brazil would involve “a level of complexity that is hardly compatible with Telecom Italia’s corporate governance style.”
Reuters reported last month that Oi SA (OIBR3.SA) and the Brazilian units of Mexico’s America Movil SAB (AMXL.MX) and Spain’s Telefonica SA (TEF.MC) might soon present a joint offer for TIM. Oi hired investment bank Grupo BTG Pactual SA BBTG11.SA last year to manage such a bid.
But both Patuano and Recchi reiterated that TIM Participações was not for sale, Valor Econômico reported.
Analysts have said Oi lacks the financial muscle to buy a chunk of TIM, whose market value is almost seven times its own. Oi also is saddled with debt of more than 46 billion reais (12 billion pounds), the most among Brazilian phone companies.
Recchi told the paper that Telecom Italia’s exit from Argentina was mainly due to the Rome-based company’s decision to focus on Brazil.
“There is a huge disconnect between the things that people say and what things truly are,” Recchi was quoted by the paper as saying.
Reporting by Guillermo Parra-Bernal; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn