Vivendi sticks to request of extraordinary vote on TIM’s grid sale-source

MILAN (Reuters) -Telecom Italia (TIM) top investor Vivendi remains convinced any decision on the sale of the former phone monopoly’s landline grid needs to be put to an extraordinary shareholder vote, a source close to the French media giant said.

The clarification comes after Vivendi finance chief Francois Laroze, a member of the management board, on Thursday said the group wanted to express its position on a sale “officially in a shareholder meeting or in an extraordinary shareholder meeting”.

The comment seemed to suggest Vivendi was opening up to the possibility of an ordinary shareholder vote – hence a simple majority – on the matter.

With its 24% voting stake in TIM, Vivendi has expressed strong reservations about a government-supported plan TIM is pursuing to sell the grid, its most valuable asset, to U.S. fund KKR.

An extraordinary shareholder vote – requiring a two-third majority – would give Vivendi a de facto veto power on the sale, which is at the heart of TIM CEO Pietro Labriola’s plans to revamp the debt-laden company.

The French media group has sought a valuation of 30 billion euros ($32 billion) for the grid and warned the business left behind may struggle to sustain itself.

The binding offer KKR tabled this week values the grid, which include fibre and copper cables running from switching centres to customers’ homes, above 20 billion euros, with roughly half the figure in debt, sources previously said.

TIM is leaning towards leaving the decision on the grid to its board after obtaining three legal opinions, another two people close to the matter separately told Reuters.

TIM may consult its shareholders but it would ultimately give its board full decision power, they said.

Vivendi no longer holds a board seat at TIM and would need to turn to the courts to challenge the directors’ decision on the grid.($1 = 0.9455 euros)

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina, editing by Valentina Za)