Italian markets watchdog Consob has ruled that French media giant Vivendi has de facto control of Telecom Italia (TIM), a decision that could open the way for the government to apply the so-called ‘golden power’ rule to veto any changes in control or ownership of the former incumbent, according Telecompaper. "After a thorough analysis of the current laws and the facts on the ground, Consob has concluded that Vivendi's stake in TIM qualifies as de facto control," said the regulator in a statement. Both Vivendi and TIM replied that they had taken note of Consob's views but contested its ruling and would lodge appeals. "The company will take all legal action to defend its interests and is confident that its actions have been correct and its arguments solid," said TIM.

Last month Vivendi denied it had de facto control over TIM under Italian law, although it did acknowledge "direction and coordination activity" at the group. The French company owns 24 percent of TIM but controls two-thirds of the board and has been accused by the Italian government of breaching an obligation to notify it of its effective control of a company viewed as a strategic national asset.

The government is expected to decide later this month whether or not to apply the ‘Golden Power’ law of 2012 to veto any changes in control or ownership of companies considered strategic, with reports indicating that it may force TIM to sell international wholesale unit Sparkle, considered a particularly sensitive asset because of its 560,000 kilometers of undersea cables connecting to countries in Europe, the Mediterranean and the Americas.