Mediaset: Vivendi account of aborted deal “without foundation”

MediasetMediaset has rejected Vivendi’s position on the aborted April 8 agreement between the pair in the strongest terms yet.

The Italian media group said Vivendi’s account of the events leading up to, and following on from its decision not to go ahead with, the pair’s April 8 deal contained “information without foundation” and that it needed to lay out the facts.

Mediaset’s comments follow a statement by Vivendi that gave its account of events, reiterated during an analyst call following Vivendi’s half-year results by the French media giant’s CEO, Arnaud de Puyfontaine. De Puyfontaine asserted that Mediaset and parent company Fininvest had “proceeded to launch media attacks detrimental to Vivendi’s interest and image” while the two parties were trying “to renegotiate the terms of the agreement” in June.

Du Puyfontaine said that the April 8 agreement had been based on “financial assumptions” on the part of Mediaset that Vivendi has subsequently subjected to due diligence by Deloitte after it raised a question about them. He said this “due diligence review”, which found that the figures provided before the agreement was signed were not realistic, had been “agreed contractually”.

Mediaset, on the contrary, asserted that the April 8 deal was based on information that was true and assumptions that were realistic, based on data that had been transparent and fully shared with Vivendi. It said that the contract was clear and did not include any clause that would allow Vivendi to unilaterally change the terms and conditions following subsequent due diligence. It denied that the pair were still involved in discussions when Vivendi pulled out and asserted that “everything had been discussed”.

To reinforce this point, the company said that there was “never any will on the part of Mediaset to renegotiate in any way the terms of the contract”.

It said that the report provided by Deloitte was “subjective and biased”.

Mediaset also alleged that Vivendi’s dealing with the EC had been initiated without sharing any information with it, “in clear violation of the provisions of the contract”.

In the analyst call, Du Puyfontaine also raised questions about the regulatory process and its impact on the deal. He said that the EC would not accept a formal filing while the pair were still “discussing their differences”, event though Vivendi completed its pre-notification process of the transaction in time, and that EC approval may not be granted in any case before the September 30 deadline after which the contract between Vivendi and Mediaset becomes void.

The latest exchange follows Mediaset and parent Fininvnest filing separate legal actions against Vivendi in Milan.