Italy's Prime Minister Enrico Letta said on Wednesday that land-line network is a crucial asset, one day after the announcement that Spanish telecom company Telefonica has agreed to take a majority stake in Telco, the holding company that controls Italy's Telecom Italia.
Though there must not be barriers to capital flows, his government does "not want to lose out on this strategic aspect of the operation," Letta said in an interview with Bloomberg TV in New York, where he was taking part in the annual UN General Assembly.
"We will be paying very, very close attention," he said.
Echoing his words, the president of the parliamentary committee that oversees the Italian intelligence services (COPASIR) Giacomo Stucchi was quoted as saying by ANSA news agency that the operation poses "serious problems for national security."
The network of Italy's largest telephone company is "the most delicate structure through which the communications of Italian citizens pass, including the most confidential ones," Stucchi pointed out.
Telefonica on Tuesday announced it has agreed to provide a capital increase for Telco, and raise its stake to an initial 66 percent with a plan to bring it to around 70 percent, and an option to further increase the stake to 100 percent of the holding from next year.
Speaking to parliament on Wednesday, Telecom Italia Chairman Franco Bernabe said that he learned of the operation from press releases, and he will consider spin-off of the fixed-line network though "the final outcome is not a given and, in any case, requires far more time."
Bernabe also added the choices for debt-laden Telecom Italia, a former state monopoly, to avoid the risk of a credit downgrade were either a capital increase or the sale of stakes in its Latin American businesses. While the first option would restore solidity to Telecom Italia, the second would not, he noted.
Several representatives of the political, industrial and labor world disagreed with the Spanish deal that they called a disaster for the Italian industrial system.
Center-left Democratic Party (PD) parliament's upper house whip Roberto Speranza said he was concerned over what he defined Italy's "strategic assets" and called for the government, of which PD is part, to report as soon as possible about the Italian group's future.
Various observers lamented that the operation could pave the way for selling abroad of other crucial assets like flagship air carrier Alitalia and defense company Finmeccanica.
"It is also a defeat for Made in Italy .. there need to be clear rules," president of the Italian farmers' group CIA Giuseppe Politi said.
Telecom Italia's stock price fell 4.6 percent to 57.3 euro cents in Milan on Wednesday.