Shares in troubled Italian Ing C Olivetti SpA have been rising lately on the strength of speculation that German telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom AG was interested in acquiring the company. Italian state electric utility ENEL was named as an associate company for the bid in press reports. Strapped-for-cash Olivetti has been considering putting its valuable cellular network assets on the block, including its 41.3% stake in cellular operator Omnitel-Pronto Italia SpA and associated company Omnitel Sistemi Radiocellulari Italiana SpA. That business could be very attractive to Deutsche Telekom. But earlier speculation that France Telecom was to acquire Olivetti (CI Nos 3,005; 3,093) has come to nothing, though the French company has proposed to take a 49% stake worth $90m in Olivetti’s Infostrada business telecommunications consortium, which was set up in 1995 as competition for one-time state monopoly Telecom Italia SpA. France Telecom’s move has forced the other venture partner, Bell Atlantic Corp to reconsider its position. Both Deutsche Telekom and British Telecommunications Plc have also been named as interested in taking stakes in Infostrada. An extraordinary shareholder meeting to settle the France Telecom stake has been set for September 1. Olivetti, of course, also has a systems integration and services business now trading under the name of Olsy, which could be attractive to predator telcos.
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