The Italian government has a golden share, giving it a right of veto over such momentous decisions. But the real choice rests with the German government, which still owns 74 per cent of the privatised company.
Like many of Europe's recently privatised monopolies, Deutsche Telekom is neither fish nor fowl. It is a private company and thinks like a branch of the civil service. The government's instinct to entrench the firm's independence by seeming to stand back is understandable. But for the majority shareholder to pretend neutrality in a bid like this would be a mistake. If the government simply votes its shares the way that Telekom's managers ask it to, the board will have total power. That is a recipe for the self- aggrandising coup that this merger represents.
- Editorial comment