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Italy, France want to create European industrial champions: Hollande
[VENICE] France and Italy want to cooperate in key industrial sectors, including telecoms, and create major companies that can compete at a European level, French President Francois Hollande said on Tuesday.
Mr Hollande told reporters he had discussed possible industrial tie-ups between the two countries during talks with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi at a bilateral meeting in Venice.
"There are already partnerships, but the idea is to have champions at a European level, in particular in some of the sectors of the future," Mr Hollande said, speaking through an interpreter. "I am thinking about renewable energy...and the shipping industry...and probably also in the defence industry there could be cooperation between French and Italian companies...This is also true for telecommunications if we want to have weight in this market," he said.
French media group Vivendi has built up a 23.8 per cent stake in former Italian fixed-line monopoly Telecom Italia since last year.
Earlier on Tuesday, Orange Chief Executive Stephane Richard said he would look into the possibility of a merger deal with Telecom Italia if Vivendi Chairman Vincent Bollore invited him to do so.
However, he added that he did not think that would happen.
Asked about the possibility of Orange buying into Telecom Italia, Mr Renzi said that any foreign investors with resources and ambition were welcome to enter the Italian market.
"Naturally we will leave it to the market to decide," he said, speaking alongside Mr Hollande at a news conference. "Whoever has money, whoever has projects, whoever creates employment, whoever has intriguing ideas should know that Italy is the right place to show off their skills."