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De Puyfontaine: Vivendi remains open to deal with Mediaset

Arnaud de Puyfontaine

Arnaud de Puyfontaine

Vivendi remains open to a deal with Mediaset, according to CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine.

Speaking to analysts after Vivendi published its end of year financial results, de Puyfonttaine said that Vivendi was “still willing to build a strong industrial relationship with this company” which fitted with Vivendi’s southern European strategy.

He said that, whatever the status of the current stand-off between the two companies, he remained “optimistic” about “the possibility to find a positive outcome”. He said that events would not “change our willingness, vision and strategy” to find a solution.

De Puyfontaine’s comments follow reports that the company could be willing to restart negotiations with Mediaset on condition that the Italian broadcaster drops its legal action against the French media giant over the abortive deal that would have seen Vivendi take control of the Italian broadcaster’s loss-making pay TV unit.

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

In addition to facing a potential legal battle with Mediaset in Italy, Vivendi faces challenges on the regulatory front related to its simultaneously holding stakes in Mediaset and Telecom Italia.

Italian regulator ACGOM said at the end of last year that Vivendi’s move to acquire a significant minority stake in Mediaset ould be 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% cannot control more than 10% of a Sistema Integrato delle Comunicazioni (SIC) – meaning a large TV, radio and publishing outfit, such as Mediaset.

The TUSMAR rule is intended to set a ceiling on the extent of concentration of communications and media in the interest of pluralism, competition and the rights of citizens

Answering an analyst question, De Puyfontaine said that Vivendi expected a fair hearing from Italian regulator AGCOM on its position and said that Vivendi was not in control of either Mediaset or Telecom italia. He suggested that the Italian law covering ownership of telecoms and medaia was imprecise and required greater clarity. De Puyfontaine said that tie-ups between media and telecoms companies were part of a bigger global trend.