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Telecom Italia sells Argentinian arm



Wants to raise $5.3 billion

Telecom Italia will sell its Argentina unit while issuing a convertible bond, aiming to raise around 4 billion euros) to stave off a credit rating downgrade and strengthen operations in Italy and Brazil.

New CEO Marco Patuano, said it had received an unsolicited offer for its 22.7 percent stake in Telecom Argentina and planned to sell. It looks like the buyer will be investment fund Fintech, which already holds shares in Telecom Italia's Argentine unit. Telecom Italia also plans to sell and lease back more than 17,000 mobile towers it owns in Italy and Brazil, and unload an Italian digital broadcasting unit, aiming to reap more than 2 billion euros from these deals.

All this is supposed to represent a major change for the debt-laden former Italian telecom monopoly and show the influence that its largest shareholder, Spain's Telefonica, is having after it agreed to raise its ownership of the holding company that owns 22.4 percent of Telecom Italia.

TI is saddled with debt and needs to pour cash into its aging infrastructure to bring about a better internet world in Italy.

The asset sales could help stave off further credit downgrades. Moody's already cut Telecom Italia's rating to junk last month, while Fitch and Standard and Poors have it one notch above. Further downgrades will be costly because the company has to roll over large amounts of debt next year.

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