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Vivendi reportedly looking to reopen Mediaset talks

The Vivendi office is seen in Paris on Wednesday, May 17, 2006.Vivendi could be willing to restart negotiations with Mediaset on condition that the Italian broadcaster drops its legal action against the French media giant, according to a French press report.

According to financial daily Les Echos, citing unnamed sources, the basis for any discussion has yet to be fully determined, but would likely focus on pay TV unit Mediaset Premium – the source of the currently less than amicable relations between the pair – and other interests of Mediaset.

According to the paper, Vivendi is determined to secure a commitment from Mediaset to commit to negotiations and drop the threat of legal action ahead of any talks.

Mediaset’s case against Vivendi is set for its first court hearing at the end of March.

According to another source cited by Les Echos, Mediaset could be prepared to drop its legal action if Vivendi committed to transfer €1.5 billion – the amount claimed by the group in compensation for the lost business as a result of Vivendi’s pulling out of the deal concluded between the pair in April.

The paper also reports that, among bankers following the saga, scenarios that could make sense include a sale of Mediaset as a whole to Vivendi, and the acquisition of Mediaset Premium by Telecom Italia – in which Vivendi is the controlling shareholder – along with the sale of Mediaset España to Vivendi.

Vivendi currently holds just shy of 30% of Mediaset after a series of acquisitions of shares at the end of last year.

The report of a possible new initiative by Vivendi to break the deadlock between the pair follows separate reports in the Italian press that Mediaset is close to striking a deal with rival pay TV player Sky over the future of the loss-making Premium.

Italian regulator AGCOM is due to rule on whether Vivendi should be allowed to retain both a controlling stake in Telecom Italia and a sizeable stake in Mediaset in the coming weeks.

Mediaset last month reset its pay TV strategy, making its pay TV channels and content available to other operators and opening up its domestic digital-terrestrial pay TV platform to all third-party content players.

The company said it would set up a new structure to participate in key sports rights bids, but that its approach to rights would be “opportunistic” and based on achieving a “sustainable business”.