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French bid in the sidelines for TI – reports

France Telecom has joined the growing ranks of potential suitors eyeing Italian incumbent, Telecom Italia (TI), according to reports Friday.

As AT&T and its partner American Moviles attempt to secure a 66 per cent stake in Olimpia – which owns 18 per cent of TI – France Telecom is examining the possibility of stepping in, should the North American attempt fail, reports the daily, Il Sole 24 Ore, without naming a source.

AT&T and Movil have exclusive talks on the deal until 30 April but the pair are looking for guarantees on the future of TI’s fixed line business which the Italian government intends to open up to all of Italy’s operators.

On Thursday the head of Italy’s telecommunications watchdog, Agcom said he wanted TI’s fixed-line network under separate management by year end.

Meanwhile, Italian banking behemoth, Intesa Sanpaolo is talking to the North American duo about splitting Olimpia into thirds. However, financing the deal does not appear to be the problem. Various reports suggest that the real sticking point with the purchase of a controlling stake in TI is about control of the telecoms giant.

Various discussions are reportedly going on between Intesa and “sources”, according to Il Sole 24 Ore, about who will run TI and how many people should be on its board.

The Italian government has made clear its desire to keep TI in Italian hands.

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