Although most of the discussion has been about the recent use (and abuse?) of golden share rights by the Portuguese Government, there is a renewed lesson from all this.
And that lesson is plain simple, and comes over and over again - the notion of "core national shareholders" in so-called "national champions" is quite elusive and it meltdowns every time
it faces a sufficiently high price. No wonder, and actually I would not expect any company or bank to let go profits just for "national pride". After all, they can always claim they will put the money to good use (and they hope better use) than keeping the current shares.
Let's take some basic economics (and get corrected if I do something wrong...). First, current shareholders of Portugal Telecom (PT) are not forced to vote in favor of selling Vivo to Telefonica. The single argument to sell is the price.
Second, if they are selling either the price is higher than what they expect to earn by keeping Vivo in PT's portfolio or they are incompetent in assessing the proposal.
Third, in their assessment I expect that shareholders included in their decision the value of alternative investments PT can make with the cash inflow from selling Vivo. Unless that cash can be geared toward some shareholders at the expense of others, it may be a reasonable decision for PT to sell.
Fourth, Government intervened with its special voting rights. Since they exist, and other shareholders know such special rights exist, why should anyone presume that such voting rights would never be used? The relevant question is why are they used, what is the source of value of PT that is not paid for by the Telefonica's bid for Vivo? Unless that becomes clear, it is hard to judge whether the bid should have been blocked or not. Anyway, it maybe a rational decision as well (but a bit unclear on the value given).
I understand that such special rights were and will be challenged as barriers to free capital flows within the European Union, that without Vivo PT becomes a much smaller company, that if the reverse situation occurred most likely the Spanish Government would exert its influence somehow, that the Government clearly stated its objection to the sale, etc...
All those arguments have some truth in it, but should they really weight so heavily in a business decision? Anyway, from now on, it is clear that either a) PT sells Vivo to Telefonica; b) PT buys Vivo from Telefonica; c) Vivo starts to underperform due to the internal fight between Telefonica and PT. The two first options are clearly better, but the third looks the more likely, unfortunately.