YOU ARE AT:Archived ArticlesTWO COMPANIES INCREASE THEIR INTERESTS IN ITALIAN GSM PROVIDER

TWO COMPANIES INCREASE THEIR INTERESTS IN ITALIAN GSM PROVIDER

Two companies have increased their ownership in Italy’s second Global System for Mobile communications operator, Omnitel Pronto Italia.

AirTouch Communications Inc. announced it purchased additional interests in Omnitel from Banca di Roma and two smaller partners, increasing its ownership by 3.8 percent. The company now holds an indirect ownership of 15.5 percent.

Mannesmann AG of Germany, which so far has been holding a 5.9 percent interest in Omnitel, said it agreed to acquire from Italy’s computer giant Olivetti SpA an indirect 5.8 percent stake in the company. The acquisition is subject to the pre-emption rights of Olivetti partners, said Mannesmann.

Since last month, Olivetti had been seeking to sell part of its ownership in Omnitel. Olivetti had been negotiating with Mannesmann to sell a small percentage of its 59 percent ownership in Omnitel Sistemi Radiocellulari Italiana SpA, the company that owns 70 percent of Omnitel. Upon final agreement, Olivetti’s ownership of Omnitel will decrease from 41.3 percent to 35.4 percent.

Both AirTouch and Mannesmann have an option to increase their ownerships in Omnitel until October 1999. AirTouch said it has exercised its option to increase its ownership by up to an additional 6.2 percent. The option was purchased from the remaining smaller Omnitel shareholders and will increase AirTouch’s indirect ownership interest in Omnitel to 21.7 percent. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Mannesmann will be allowed to increase its ownership from 11 percent to 14 percent and has not announced its decision to purchase that option.

Omnitel launched commercial GSM service last December, competing with government-owned Telecom Italia Mobile SpA for the first time.

Olivetti is the lead partner in Omnitel, followed by AirTouch. Others include Mannesmann, Bell Atlantic Corp., Cellular Communications International Inc., Telia of Sweden and several Italian companies.

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