Telecom Italia is Italy's traditional leader in telecoms and broadband. In addition to the country's main fixed line network it owns mobile operator TIM and also Olivetti business machines. However, performance has been declining for years. In a new blow, the merger of rivals Tre and Wind in 2016 pushed TIM Italia into the number #2 position in mobile, with around 35% share. The group also has a significant presence in Brazil, where TIM Brasil is that country's #2 mobile provider. Yet Telecom Italia has struggled for years with crippling debts created by a series of complex mergers and takeovers since the 1990s in which ownership of the business has repeatedly changed hands in a series of chaotic corporate battles which continue to this day. From 2008 to 2014 TIM's biggest shareholder was an investment group controlled by Telefonica of Spain, also its main competitor in Brazil. Telefonica divested its interest in 2015, and instead Vivendi of France emerged as TI's lead shareholder with a controlling 24% stake. As the French group's control of Telecom Italia steadily tightened, Amos Genish, a trusted lieutenant of Vivendi chairman Vincent Bolloré, was appointed as CEO - the group's third in three years - while Vivendi's CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine was appointed as executive chairman. This creeping takeover, and the resulting management turmoil, led to growing resistance from investors led by US activist Elliott Management, who have been calling for the removal of Vivendi-linked directors. Genish was ousted as CEO in 2018 (though he remains a director), and was replaced by Elliott-backed Luigi Gubitosi. Meanwhile, to reduce its debt, the group has steadily offloaded most of its interests in other Latin American markets as well as Italian broadcaster La7 and its controlling stake in MTV Italia. In 2018, it announced plans to sell off its fixed line infrastructure in Italy as well. Group revenues slipped below €20bn for the first time in 2015. The figure for 2017 was €19.8bn, but the group's debts are still a staggering €25bn, more than three times its earnings. Italy accounts for around 75% of revenues, and Brazil for the rest.
Capsule checked 23rd November 2018
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Adbrands Weekly Update 10th May 2018: In another setback for French financier Vincent Bolloré, his Vivendi group lost board control of Telecom Italia after its shareholders rejected his proposed line-up of new directors in favour of an alternative team endorsed by US activist investor Elliott. Many Telecom Italia investors have become increasingly frustrated with Vivendi's creeping takeover of one of Italy's most famous corporate jewels via a minority stake. Elliott won just over 49.8% of a shareholder vote on the make-up of the new board, narrowly defeating Vivendi's 47.2% support. That gives Elliott around two-thirds of board representation. Bolloré is also currently under investigation over alleged bribery of government officials in Africa to secure ownership of valuable container ports in Togo and Guinea.
Adbrands Weekly Update 20th Apr 2017: Media tycoon Vincent Bollore, controlling shareholder in Vivendi and Havas, was ordered by regulators to reduce his stake in Italian media giant Mediaset. Bollore has accumulated a hostile stake of almost 29% in Mediaset, the investment vehicle of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, after the two men fell out over a earlier agreement. Bollore also controls the country's main phone company Telecom Italia via a 25% stake. Italian law forbids telecoms companies with more than 40% local share from also controlling more than 10% of the country's media. Mediaset has over 13% share.
Adbrands Weekly Update 24th Mar 2016: Vivendi - the former owner of SFR - increased its shareholding in Telecom Italia to just under 25% and succeeded in persuading incumbent CEO Marco Patuano, who opposes Vivendi's creeping takeover of Italy's national telecoms carrier, to resign. Chairman Giuseppe Recchi will take over on an interim basis.
Adbrands Weekly Update 6th Mar 2014: Mini-network Leagas Delaney scored a major victory with consolidation of all creative duties for longtime on-off client Telecom Italia, following a protracted review which has involved more than ten different agencies around the region.
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