Vivendi continues Mediaset stakebuilding exercise

Vivendi chief executive Arnaud de Puyfontaine will meet Italian financial markets regulator Consob in Rome on Friday following complaints over the French media group’s growing interest in Italian broadcaster Mediaset, according to Reuters.

The news agency, citing two sources close to the matter, said the meeting will see Consob attempt to reconstruct the share price movements, adding that the regulator could also meet with representatives from Fininvest, the holding company of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Mediaset’s controlling shareholder, as well as Mediaset itself.

De Puyfontaine will reportedly seek to confirm that Vivendi has built up its stake in the last week following all existing market rules. The development comes amid another busy week of developments in the escalating battle between Vivendi and Mediaset.

Vivendi yesterday (Tuesday) confirmed that it now owns 25.75 per cent of the Mediaset share capital and 26.77 per cent of the voting rights. Since revealing it held a three per cent stake in Mediaset last week, Vivendi has rapidly increased its shareholding, becoming the biggest investor behind Fininvest.

Fininvest, which owns a 38.3 per cent stake in Mediaset, filed a complaint with Consob on Monday alleging market abuse and last week made a criminal complaint alleging market manipulation.

On Monday, Vivendi said it would seek to increase its investment in Mediaset by acquiring additional shares depending on market conditions within the limits of 30 per cent of the share capital and voting rights. If Vivendi passes a 30 per cent interest in Mediaset, it will be obliged to launch a takeover offer under Italian law.

Vivendi had said in a statement: “Vivendi reminds that its presence in the Mediaset equity is in line with the Group’s intention to develop its activities in Southern Europe and its strategic ambitions as a major international, European-based, media and content group.”

Mediaset, one of the leading sports broadcasters in Italy, is currently seeking damages from Vivendi after it stepped away from an April agreement to take full control of pay-television division Mediaset Premium.

Fininvest in August filed a claim for damages of €570m ($611m) against Vivendi for allegedly failing to comply with the terms of the takeover deal for Mediaset Premium. Mediaset had earlier asked a Milan court to force Vivendi to fulfil its contract and pay damages of €50m per month, starting from July 25, in a separate claim.

Under the original deal, Vivendi was set to acquire 100 per cent of Mediaset Premium, with both companies taking a 3.5-per-cent stake in each other. Vivendi made a revised offer to sell a 3.5-per-cent stake in its business in exchange for a 20-per-cent shareholding in Mediaset Premium and a 3.5-per-cent stake in Mediaset, but this was rejected by Mediaset at the end of July.

The ongoing saga comes with Mediaset Premium set to contest rights tenders for domestic Serie A football and the Uefa Champions League, both of which are due to be held in the first half of next year.