Former state-owned monopoly Telecom Italia has announced an 11% rise in its third quarter operating profits and claimed that its efforts to reduce the company’s spiralling debts are beginning to bear fruit. The telco, whose ownership continues to be the subject of ongoing speculation, reported operating profits of EUR1.93 billion for the three months to the end of September 2003, despite revenues slipping 1.7% year-on-year to EUR7.53 billion, much of which was attributable to unstable currencies in Latin America. However, the telco bucked the general trend across Europe by posting a 1.2% increase in its fixed line revenues for the first nine months of the year. Telcom Italia said that its new flat-rate packages helped drive growth and also boasted of a near-doubling in its broadband customer base since the start of the year, to 1.63 million. Net debt was EUR34.25 billion, down from EUR37.44 billion three months before. The operator is still embroiled in rumours concerning its ownership, with general consensus having it that chairman Marco Tronche is looking to up his stake in the telco’s holding company Olimpia; Olimpia increased its holding in Telecom Italia from 11.5% to 14.2% last month. There is also increasing speculation that Telecom Italia is looking to take full control of its 55%-owned mobile group TIM. On Monday, TIM beat analyst’s expectations to post a net profit of EUR977 million, compared to a loss of EUR43 million the year before.
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