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Italian judge rejects Vivendi's request to suspend Mediaset's TV project

Stock MarketsFeb 03, 2020 14:37
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Mediaset tower is seen in Cologno Monzese neighbourhood Milan

By Elvira Pollina

MILAN (Reuters) - A Milan judge on Monday rejected a request by France's Vivendi (PA:VIV) to suspend a planned reorganisation at Mediaset, a document reviewed by Reuters showed on Monday, potentially boosting the Italian broadcaster's European growth strategy.

Controlled by the family of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, Mediaset approved a merger of its Italian and Spanish units under a Dutch holding company, called MediaforEurope (MFE) in September.

The Italian broadcaster wants to use the new holding company to pursue tie-ups with other European peers, in a bid to create a pan-European TV champion to tackle growing competition in the industry from streaming rivals such as Netflix (O:NFLX).

But Vivendi, led by French billionaire Vincent Bollore and a major shareholder in Mediaset, opposes that plan and is fighting the project in courts across Europe, saying the governance structure of the new entity would strengthen Berlusconi's grip on the company.

In an effort to push through its plan, Mediaset shareholders approved changes to MFE's bylaws on Jan. 10, as suggested by the Milan court. However, Vivendi said the changes did not address its concerns.

Mediaset's planned reorganization remains on hold because a Spanish judge ruled in favour of Vivendi's request to suspend it in October, though the Italian judge's decision could help the Italian broadcaster to overturn the suspension in Spain.

Neither Vivendi nor Mediaset were immediately available to comment.

Mediaset faces a March deadline to see its Dutch holding company plan through, otherwise the decisions of a September shareholder meeting that approved the project will no longer be valid based on existing Dutch laws.

Vivendi and Mediaset have been at odds since the French conglomerate dropped a deal to buy Mediaset's pay-TV unit in 2016 and then built up a 29% stake in the group, which the Italian broadcaster considers hostile.

Two-thirds of that stake is held in a trust, following a ruling by the Italian telecoms watchdog over Vivendi's excessive presence in the country's media and telecoms sectors, given its 24% holding in Telecom Italia (MI:TLIT) as well.

Doubts over the future of Mediaset's pan-European plan increased after the two feuding groups failed to resolve multiple legal disputes with an out-of-the court agreement in November.

The deadlock with Vivendi and uncertainty over the future of Mediaset's European growth plan have weighed on Mediaset's shares, which are down 10% since the start of this year.

Italian judge rejects Vivendi's request to suspend Mediaset's TV project
 

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Matthew Dalgleish
Matthew Dalgleish Feb 03, 2020 14:45
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The French own businesses in nearly all of the EU. But you rarely see foreign companies in France.The EU I'd run for the French by the French. that's what they call a level playing field, what a joke.
 
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