Activist investor wrests Telecom Italia board from Vivendi

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Rozzano (Italy) (AFP)

Activist fund Elliott won Friday its weeks-long power struggle with Vivendi over Telecom Italia by wresting control of the company's board at a shareholder meeting held near Milan.

US-based Elliott scraped past Vivendi, with 49.84 percent of voting shareholders' ballots going in the fund's favour and 47.18 percent of votes for the French telecommunications giant, which is run by billionaire Vincent Bollore and is the largest shareholder in Telecom Italia (TIM) with a stake of just under 24 percent.

Elliott will hold 10 seats on the new board, with Vivendi given the remaining five, a huge blow to the French group after having previously had a stranglehold on board positions.

Vivendi immediately responded to the defeat by insisting that it would work to ensure that Elliott, sometimes called a "vulture fund", would not "dismantle" TIM.

"We have five seats on the board, we are the main shareholder and we will continue to support (director and general manager) Amos Genish's strategy, which was voted for unanimously by the board," Vivendi's head of communications Simon Gillham told AFP.

Friday's vote, in which shareholders with over 67 percent of TIM's capital took part, is a big victory for Elliott, which has about nine percent of TIM's shares and has been pushing for change at the top at TIM ever since it demanded the removal of six board members in mid-March.

Gillham told AFP that Elliott won thanks to state-controlled entity Cassa Depositi e Prestiti, which holds a 4.7 percent stake in TIM and "made the difference by voting for a hedge fund instead of an industrial long-term shareholder."