In an agreement closed at 1.30 a.m. on Wednesday, August 28, Telecom Italia sold Opportunity 18.3% of its stake in Solpart, the holding company for Brazil Telecom (BrT) for 47,000 US Dollars. It now holds only 19% in Solpart and is therefore no longer a controlling shareholder in the fixed-line incumbent under Brazilian telecoms law. As a result Telecom Italia Mobile (TIM) should be able to start delivering its PCS mobile service in Brazil. The agreement with Opportunity gives Telecom Italia the right to repurchase the shares at the same price. It?s expected to do so at the end of 2003, by which time BrT will have fulfilled its regulatory targets so that controlling shareholders will be allowed by law to operate in other segments.
Opportunity required a number of concessions in exchange, according to a source close to the negotiations. For example, Telecom Italia had to agree to amend the Solpart shareholder agreement so that it will no longer have a veto over decisions by the board of directors. On the other hand, Opportunity has promised the Italians that BrT won?t acquire any mobile telephony assets until they reassume a controlling share. There?s a simple reason for this: if BrT buys a mobile license or operator, Telecom Italia will remain legally debarred from holding more than 19.99% of the fixed-line incumbent because it already controls TIM, which will soon be operating nationwide. Anatel?s rules state that no company may control more than one mobile operation in the same region. The same source says BrT will confine its activities in the mobile segment to possible partnerships with TIM.