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TIM’s two big shareholders in furious war of words over future of company

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The battle between the two rival shareholders in TIM today reached an extraordinary level of abuse, just over two weeks ahead of the company’s meeting of shareholders.

The meeting, on 29 March, is likely to affect not only the future of TIM as an Italian network provider but also of Sparkle, TIM’s international carrier division.

Vivendi, the largest shareholder with 24%, said this morning that Elliott, the US activist investor, had published a “document full of misleading information and twisting of facts”.

In that PowerPoint document, called “Time for TIM”, Elliott attacked Vivendi’s head, Vincent Bolloré, for allegedly trying to start a dynasty.

But both sides have dug into each other’s dirty washing. Vivendi accused Elliott of having “received the highest fine ever issued” by the Autorité des marchés financiers (AMF), the French financial regulator.

Elliott, with just under 10%, said that “for years, Vivendi has had issues with Italian regulators over rule violations”, over its stake in TIM. It said that in Bolloré’s wider interests, his “circular ownership structures across his complex entities are used to entrench control and exploit gains at the expense of other minority shareholders”.

One shareholder that has not so far spoken is Cassa Depositi e Prestiti (CDP), the Italian state investment bank, which also owns around 5% of TIM. As the state’s representative, it could have a powerful say at the 29 March shareholders’ meeting. But the government also has a strong say, as it wants critical national infrastructure to remain in Italian hands – and that means the national fibre network as well as the international network run by TIM’s subsidiary, Sparkle.

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