UPDATE 3-Telecom Italia to sell Telecom Argentina stake for $960 mln
By Danilo Masoni
MILAN Nov 14 (Reuters) - Telecom Italia agreed to sell its controlling 22.7 percent stake in Telecom Argentina to Fintech Group for $960 million, as it presses on with a plan to raise 4 billion euros to fix its balance sheet and revive its business.
Telecom Italia said in a statement on Thursday the sale to the U.S.-based investment fund was not expected to have a significant impact on its consolidated net debt amounting to 28 billion euros ($38 billion).
Later on Thursday, Standard & Poor's cut Telecom Italia's credit rating by one notch to 'BB+' with a negative outlook, citing the company's persistent high debt and expectations of continued pressure on growth in its Italian home market.
The ratings downgrade means that Telecom Italia, which faces peak debt maturities in 2014, has lost its investment grade status, making it more expensive for the company to borrow money.
"Telecom Italia will likely continue to face tough competitive, economic, and regulatory environments in Italy," the ratings agency said.
Fintech, owned by Mexican businessman David Martinez, plans to launch a tender offer for remaining shares in Telecom Argentina.
"We see tremendous opportunities for growth in the Argentine market and we will pursue a major investment program to take advantage of them," Martinez said in a statement. Continuación...