ROME Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) auditors have told the company its top investor Vivendi (VIV.MI) is in a position to influence other board members even without de-facto controlling the company, the phone group's chairman Giuseppe Recchi said on Tuesday.
The influence of the French group on Telecom Italia, where it has a stake of around 24 percent, has come into the spotlight after Vivendi also took a significant holding at Italian broadcaster Mediaset (MS.MI), leading to speculation over whether it plans to combine the two companies.
Italy's communications regulator is now looking into Vivendi's stakebuilding at Mediaset, given domestic anti-trust regulations that prevent companies from having an excessive market share both in telecommunications and media.
Recchi was answering questions from lawmakers in the Senate. The company later issued a statement at the request of market watchdog Consob detailing the discussions that took place between its board and auditors.
It said the auditors had reviewed board decisions since 2015 and concluded that board members had, with a few minor exceptions, always backed the positions of directors appointed by Vivendi.
However, the company said its board members - in rejecting the auditors' conclusions - had ruled out having been swayed by Vivendi's representatives and said their decisions had been taken independently.
It added that two of its board members had proposed strengthening checks and balances procedures on a voluntary basis for deliberations involving Vivendi and board members appointed by the French group.
(Reporting by Alberto Sisto and Silvia Aloisi; editing by Mark Heinrich)