Cernobbio (Como)

Telecom Italia chairman says 'industrial project' needed

Adds that it could mean forming 'coalition' w/foreign partner

Telecom Italia chairman says 'industrial project' needed

Cernobbio (Como), September 6 - Telecom Italia (TI) Chairman Franco Bernabe' on Friday said the troubled telephony giant he heads needs an "industrial project" more than an "industrial shareholder", and that he sees the possibility of a new "coalition partner", speaking margins of the annual Ambrosetti economic conference in Cernobbio, on Lake Como. Press and analyst reports speculating TI's recapitalization or possible takeover recently thrust an otherwise languishing share price this summer, after the telephone giant reported first half losses of 1.4 billion euros and new legal woes. Bernabe' has previously denied or refused comment on the press and analyst reports, but on Friday acknowledged TI sought a new industrial project, rather than a new source of funds, and that the project could well include a new - and possibly foreign - industrial partner. "The idea that in the beginning that there was - or that there was a need for - an industrial shareholder has had its day," said Bernabe'. "We have already said, a financial stakeholder is not needed, an industrial project is needed," Bernabe' continued. "For Telecom, an industrial project is needed which could have an industrial shareholder, who must have equal dignity. Telecom is not an object of exchange, purchase or sale," Bernabe' explained. "On the basis of this project, one can see a possible coalition," Bernabe' added. When asked if the partner(s) could speak Chinese or Egyptian Arabic, he said, "Any language is fine, as long as it is industrial operations". "Telephony (in Italy) is full of foreigners who have adapted extremely well. Sawiris has managed Wind with great success. Hutchinson Whampoa bought H3g and made it grow. Vodafone is a major operator," Bernabe' said. The TI chief also cautioned, "Operations performed for purely financial reasons are not good for the country, industry or employment growth. I believe that every transaction should be done with industrial goals and strategic reinforcement". Bernabe' underlined that Italy's largest phone company and ex-state monopoly has "huge importance" for the country, and thus anything it does must be treated with "extreme attention, respect and attention to the long term interests of the country". As recently as Thursday, Bernabe' brushed off rumours of a hunt for new investors that caused sharp rises in the company's share price, advising patience until a key board meeting on September 19.

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