ROME (Reuters) - The Italian government is poised to activate its so-called golden power to intervene with strategic companies, Industry Minister Carlo Calenda said at the weekend amid continuing concern over the ownership of Telecom Italia (TIM)(TLIT.MI).
French media group Vivendi’s (VIV.PA) control of Italy’s main telecoms provider is being examined by the government in a review seeking to establish whether Vivendi complied with legal obligations when it built its stake.
“We are heading towards a period when international economic relations will be tougher. Therefore Italy has to have the ability to be assertive when it needs to defend its own assets,” Calenda told a conference on Saturday.
“This will be valid when we finally apply for the first time the golden power,” he added, without mentioning Vivendi by name
Government officials are due to meet on Sept. 25 to discuss whether to sanction Vivendi on the grounds that it had failed to inform the prime minister’s office that it had gained de facto control over TIM.
Under a “golden power” clause, the government must be told of any change in control or ownership of strategic businesses, including telecoms companies, within 10 days of it taking place.
Vivendi is TIM’s top investor with a 24 percent stake, but it has denied that it controls the company.
La Repubblica daily said on Saturday that Vivendi is facing a 298 million euro (261.86 million pounds) fine over the issue. However, Il Sole 24 Ore newspaper reported on Sunday that talks were continuing behind the scenes.
Some Italian politicians have said TIM’s telecoms network is a core strategic asset and as such should be nationalised.
The Telecom Italia row comes against the backdrop of broader tensions between Rome and Paris over industrial cooperation after France blocked Italian shipbuilder Fincantieri from taking over the STX France shipyards.
Italian and French ministers are due to meet on Sept. 27 to try to find a solution to the shipyard problem.
Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by David Goodman