The Italian government wants to block a bid by US phone company AT&T and America Movil of Mexico to buy stakes in the company that controls Telecom Italia.
Selling the shares would be Pirelli’s Chairman Marco Tronchetti Provera, who has repeatedly clashed with Prime Minister Romano Prodi over foreign influence in Telecom Italia.
Shares in Italy’s biggest phone operator are very fragmented; the largest chunk of stock – almost 18% – is owned by a holding company, Olimpia, which is mostly controlled by Pirelli.
Italy’s communications minister, Paolo Gentiloni, urged Italian investors to make a counter-bid. He said: “The government doesn’t intervene in the market; but it does point out there is a public interest here: a challenge that Italy’s corporate and financial world should respond to.”
The government has previously pushed Italian banks into trying to buy Olimpia, but they could not agree on a price with Tronchetti Provera. He wants to salvage his investment in Telecom Italia whose shares have fallen in value since he bought them six years ago.