Reuters

PARIS, LONDON (Reuters) - Activist investor Elliott Advisors lambasted Vivendi on Thursday after the French media group defended its strategy as the main shareholder of Telecom Italia (TIM).

 

The activist fund has built up a 9 percent stake in TIM and is asking for changes at the board at a shareholders vote on April 24.

 

Paul Elliott Singer's hedge fund firm said TIM has experienced "profound and persistent share price underperformance" under Vivendi's control.

 

TIM shares have fallen more than 62 percent over the past ten years, from 1.359 euros ($1.68) in April 2008 to 0.8498 euros on Thursday.

 

Elliott was responding to a document published earlier this week in which Vivendi defended its track record.

In a statement on Wednesday, Telecom Italia's management also defended its strategy, saying alternatives proposed by Elliott Advisers were premature, unfeasible and carried financial and execution risks.

Although Elliott wants changes, it has also said it would keep TIM's chief executive, Amos Genish, who is backed by Vivendi.

"If the make up of the board changes for sure the business plan will need to be reconfirmed," said Telecom Italia CEO Amos Genish in an interview in Italian daily Il Sole 24 Ore on Thursday.

"We'll need to see if the board has trust and is aligned with the CEO, it is a question of 'chemistry'," he said, adding he had met Elliott several times but no other meetings were planned at the moment.

The hedge fund said in its statement that it is time for change. "Elliott believes shareholders need a united board, not one divided and mired in litigation with its own statutory auditors," it said.

"Shareholders deserve the opportunity to unlock significant value by supporting Elliott’s proposal, which begins with electing a truly independent Board of Directors on April 24," the fund added in a statement.

(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Maiya Keidan; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)