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Vivendi: no prospect of deal as Mediaset calls for seizure of shares

The Vivendi office is seen in Paris on Wednesday, May 17, 2006.Tentative moves to find an amicable resolution to Vivendi and Mediaset’s dispute over the aborted deal for Vivendi to take control of the Italian broadcaster’s pay TV unit have failed amid a renewed exchange of accusations and recriminations between the pair.

The French media giant issued a statement yesterday in which it said that “as of today Vivendi is no longer willing to give priority to finding an amicable solution and reserves the right to take all necessary action to defend its interests and those of its shareholders”.

Vivendi’s move came after Mediaset last week asked an Italian court to order the seizure of the 3.5% stake in the French media group that it was promised in exchange for an equal stake in Mediaset along with the acquisition of Mediaset Premium in the original deal between the pair in April.

An initial hearing on that claim will be held on November 8. Implementation of such a seizure would require the cooperation of the French authorities.

Vivendi said that it had “ remained open to discussions in its dispute with Mediaset” until now and claimed to have  “continuously sought alternative solutions over the past several months”.

However, the media group added, the “only response to Vivendi’s constructive approach was for Mediaset and Fininvest [the holding company that owns the Italian broadcaster] to issue aggressive public statements and to initiate multiple legal actions”.

Mediaset countered by saying that there had been no contact between the two companies since Vivendi pulled out of the April 8 agreement in July. Far from being the object of constructive proposals, the broadcaster said, Mediaset had not been approached at all.

The Italian group further said that Vivendi’s repeated references – including in the statement issued yesterday – to Mediaset Premium’s “unrealistic” business plan as the reason for its change of heart constituted an inappropriate reference to the business activities of a publicly listed company that could have an impact on its share price.

Mediaset said that the case would be resolved in court, and added that its move to seize Vivendi’s shares was aimed at protecting the interests of its shareholders.

Despite the further ramping up of rhetoric, Reuters reported that Vivendii remained open to a new deal with Mediaset, citing unnamed sources.

Vivendi is believed to favour a compromise solution that would see it take a 40% stake in Medaiset Premium, with Mediaset retaining 40% and a third party possibly holding the remainder. Under the original deal Vivendi would ultimately have taken 100% control of the pay TV outfit.

Tags: Mediaset, Vivendi