Partnership tops the Italian agenda

Even if the Italian political situation at the moment is not very clear, and the lack of a stable government provokes lingering doubts among foreign investors, the Italian market still offers some good opportunities.

The general election, scheduled for 21 April, should clarify the political situation. However, prudent investors should already be making plans for the best ways to maximise their investments in Italy.

Some UK companies have already begun to take advantage of these investment opportunities. For example, British Telecom is carrying out a joint venture with Italian company Bnl (Albacom).

The most active sector in Italy in the past few months has been telecommunications. And the liberalisation of this sector has opened the door to many new opportunities for the diligent investor.

Many Italian companies hoping to capitalise on the expansion of the telecommunications market have been trying to attract strong partners to invest with. Bnl, FS, Autostrade and Enel are all trying to reach an agreement with BT. And Eni and Mediaset, a Berlusconi group, already seems to have reached one.

BT, according to media sources, is interested in buying 4 per cent of Mediaset with an estimated value of ItL300 billion. At the same time Eni and BT are negotiating an agreement which will give the British company control over Snam, one of the best private networks in Italy.

An agreement between Eni, BT and Mediaset could establish one of the most important telecommunications networks in Italy and will mean a great deal to the partners.

For BT, it will be both a financial as well as industrial windfall. Financial because the new company will be quoted on the stock exchange, thereby increasing its value. Industrial because BT will become the leader of one of the most important markets in the European market.

The Italian partners will also benefit because they will be able to enter into a profitable sector with a well-established company. This will be especially beneficial for Mediaset, which will be able to enlarge its knowledge in a market which is closely related to its core business activity.

At the moment BT is the only foreign company trying to enter the Italian telecommunications market. It has used the best strategy to achieve this, by acquiring an Italian partner.

Cable and Wireless, the other major UK telecommunications company, does not have an Italian partner and has not shown any inclination to enter the Italian marketplace either.

There are a wide range of business opportunities in Italy open to UK investors in a variety of sectors, such as construction projects.

But profits in the Italian telecommunications sector are still there to be had, if investors are wise in the way they capitalise on the many opportunities on offer. One way to get into the Italian market is to contact the local offices of law firms based in Italy. They can advise you on the best way to proceed before any major proceedings are agreed to.