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Telecom Italia not looking to expand in Latin America: chairman

By Anthony Esposito

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Telecom Italia is not looking to expand in Latin America, but the company does need to strengthen its infrastructure due to growing regional data traffic, chairman Franco Bernabe said on Saturday.

"We don't foresee expanding our footprint in the region. We are very conservative on investments," Bernabe told Reuters in an interview during a summit of Latin American and European business leaders in the Chilean capital Santiago.

"The kind of investments we make are investments that strengthen the competitiveness of the companies where we already have investments, and where we have potential for growth," he said.

Telecom Italia, which indirectly controls Telecom Argentina SA , has been boosting investments in its existing operations in Brazil and Argentina.

"Data traffic is picking up everywhere in the region and we need to make our infrastructure much more solid everywhere in order to accommodate for this growth in traffic," Bernabe said.

The company's operations in the region are set to benefit from Latin America's relative economic health and resilience to the global slowdown, he said.

"Quite surprisingly in the middle of the financial crisis many Latin American countries were relatively unaffected with a fairly solid financial system, with fairly well-balanced budgets and therefore in a position to improve ... their relative position in the world economic scene," Bernabe said.

He added that Telecom Italia is "not part of the process that Vivendi has launched" to sell its Brazilian broadband company GVT SA.

Telecom Italia, which already owns Brazil's second-largest mobile operator TIM Participacoes but has a small market share in broadband, has not presented an offer as the price tag is too high.

(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Helen Popper and Gunna Dickson)

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