Italy orders Vivendi to cut stake in either Telecom Italia or Mediaset

Bruno Cirelli
Aprile 20, 2017

It marks the latest chapter in a long-running public battle between Mediaset and Vivendi, which has been at locked horns since July 2016 when Vivendi backed out of an agreement that would have given Vivendi control of Mediaset's pay-TV unit, Premium, and given the two companies 3.5% equity stakes in each other.

Bollore took almost a 30% stake in Mediaset a year ago, and slowly built a stake in Telecom Italia that's at 24%.

The regulator late on Tuesday said Vivendi held significant influence and excessive shares in Italy's telecommunication and media markets, which breach the country's media laws.

The authority did not say how much Vivendi would need to divest in either company but ordered the French group to present it with a "specific plan of action" within 60 days.

The AgCom decision plays in favor of Mediaset, which is majority owned by Fininvest, the family holding company of former Italian prime minister and ex-AC Milan owner Silvio Berlusconi.

An Italian regulator ordered French media group Vivendi VIV.PA on Tuesday to cut its stake in either Telecom Italia TLIT.MI or broadcaster Mediaset MS.IT within a year, ruling it was in breach of rules created to prevent a concentration of power.

Vivendi released a statement on Tuesday saying that it "neither controls nor exercises a dominant influence on Mediaset" and said it was considering legal action.

The group, led by French billionaire Vincent Bollore, said it would also consider filing an appeal to a regional administrative court in Italy, it said in a statement.

The regulator's ruling follows an investigation as to whether Vivendi is in breach of a provision of the Testo Unico dei Servizi di Media Audiovisivi e Radiofonici (TUSMAR) regulation that electronics communications companies with a market share in excess of 40% can not control more than 10% of a Sistema Integrato delle Comunicazioni (SIC) - meaning a large TV, radio and publishing outfit, such as Mediaset.

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