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Vivendi ‘could cut’ Mediaset stake to end legal row

French media group Vivendi could reportedly reduce its stake in Italy-based commercial broadcaster Mediaset in an effort to end the long-running dispute between the two companies.

The Reuters news agency, citing sources close to the matter, said that under the settlement Vivendi could cut its 29-per-cent stake in Mediaset, while retaining a smaller interest in MediaForEurope (MFE). In June, Mediaset announced the creation of MFE, owning stakes in leading European media groups in a bid to tackle streaming services such as Netflix, but Vivendi has opposed the venture, one of many areas of tension between the two firms.

Claims of a compromise agreement between the pair comes with a Milan court having given Mediaset and Vivendi until November 22 to resolve their governance dispute, which dates back to the French conglomerate having withdrawn from an agreement to buy Mediaset’s pay-television unit in 2016.

Earlier this month, Mediaset raised its interest in German counterpart ProSiebenSat.1 through the acquisition of a 5.5-per-cent stake. The purchase was made through Mediaset’s Spanish arm, Mediaset España Comunicación, and together with a stake already held by Mediaset Group, Mediaset has now secured a total of 15.1 per cent of the share capital, making it ProSieben’s largest investor.

Mediaset said its acquisition of an additional stake in an industry leader in Germany, Europe’s largest media market, continued its MFE strategy. The MFE vision, which incorporates a merger of Mediaset’s Italian and Spanish business into a Dutch holding company, has been challenged by Vivendi, Mediaset’s second-largest shareholder. However, the two groups have recently engaged in negotiations to overcome their differences.

On Friday, Mediaset chief financial officer Marco Giordani said it could seek to further increase its ProSieben stake to 20 per cent, repeating his call for the German group to join MFE.