Italy may be claiming that its tax-self-exempting black economy is now so enormous that it should now be ranked ahead of the UK in the economic councils of the world, but even the Italians would not claim that Italtel SpA is anything more than a minnow on the world telecommunications stage. But that could count in its favour in the bidding for France’s troublesome Compagnie Generale des Constructions Telephoniques, CGCT, and Italtel panted in with a bid at the last minute on Monday, alongside AT&T-Philips, Siemens, and perhaps L M Ericsson and others who are keeping their cards close to their chests. Counting against the late Italian entry is the fact that it is asking the French, for whom the affair has gone on quite long enough, to agree yet another delay, where the government wants the future of the company decided by April 30 at the latest. Italtel is asking for a delay of two months so that it can prepare a more detailed bid for CGCT, and to line up French partners to take the 80% of the shares that must remain in French hands. We are quite close to France and easier to deal with, says Italtel chief Marisa Bellisario.