Talotta ‘seeking new global role’ as TIM confirms his departure

Talotta ‘seeking new global role’ as TIM confirms his departure

Alessandro Talotta has officially left TIM, hours before shareholders in rival carrier Retelit vote on whether to make him a director.

Talotta told Capacity this morning that he is now looking for a new role in the carrier industry.

“My priority is to have an international job, working for a global multinational company,” he told us.

The former Telecom Italia issued an announcement this morning: “TIM hereby informs that Alessandro Talotta has left the company. In recent years Talotta was chairman and CEO of the subsidiary Sparkle and previously held roles of responsibility as a network, services and regulation expert.”

TIM added: “The company thanks Mr Talotta for the high quality of his managerial contribution and wishes him all the best in his new professional challenges.”

Talotta left Sparkle in early April, at the same time that news broke that he was being nominated to the Retelit board. He is one of a slate of directorship candidates being supported by Fibre 4.0, a company that in March had built up a stake of 12.8% in Retelit.

Fiber 4.0 is backed by banker Raffaele Mincione, a 40% shareholder. Mincione, on the same slate as Talotta, has been nominated by Fiber 4.0 for the role of president of the board of Retelit.

Talotta told Capacity this morning that, though he is “on a list for the board of directors of Retelit”, he couldn’t promote his candidature while he was still employed by TIM. “The meeting is this afternoon. We will see.”

Meanwhile the future of Sparkle, TIM’s global carrier business, is in question. The Italian government is concerned that TIM is controlled by a foreign company, the French media group Vivendi, which has a stake of 24%.

Its concern centres on TIM’s ownership of critical Italian and international infrastructure. Part of that issue is being addressed because TIM said at the end of March that it is separating out its Italian wholesale access network into a new company, NetCo.

However TIM will still own NetCo under the current proposals. But NetCo will not include Sparkle, which would still be directly controlled by Vivendi, so the Italian government’s reason for concern continues.

A possible solution would be for TIM to sell Sparkle. This is understood to be on TIM’s agenda, but the Italian government would approve a sale only to another Italian-controlled company. There aren’t many of those with experience of the telecoms industry.

One is Open Fiber, which is building a nationwide fibre network, including fibre to the home (FTTH). It is controlled by Enel, the Italian electricity grid company, so would meet the government’s specifications. Its CEO is Elisabetta Ripa, a former Telecom Italia executive.

Another is Retelit, which has a 12,500km fibre network across western Europe, extending to Singapore and Hong Kong. However its total revenues in 2017 were only €65 million. The number was 32% up on 2016, but still on the low side to afford a bid for Sparkle without substantial new investment.

Earlier this week Open Fiber and Retelit said they had signed a commercial agreement to develop ultra-broadband connectivity and services, extending the reach of their networks across Italy.

TIM itself faces a shareholders’ meeting next Friday, when its own activist investor group, headed by New York-based Elliott Advisors, will challenge the Vivendi-backed board of directors and put forward its own candidates. The Italian government has also built up a shareholding in TIM, so will have a voice at the 4 May meeting. 

A TIM shareholders' meeting this week voted for Amos Genish, a Vivendi executive, to continue as group CEO. Elliott supported that vote, a move that Vivendi described as inconsistent. The company said: “Vivendi notes the inconsistency of the activist fund Elliott Advisors in voting for Amos Genish on April 24, even though it contests the industrial plan which both he and all his management team support.”

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