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Mediaset reportedly in contact with Sky; drops Vivendi shares seizure bid

MediasetMediaset is in contact with Sky over a possible deal for control of troubled pay TV unit Mediaset Premium, according to a Reuters report.

According to Reuters, citing two unnamed sources close to the case, Mediaset and Sky have been in contact over a possible deal in the event of a definitive failure by Mediaset to secure an accommodation with Vivendi.

However, the report says, Sky and Mediaset will not begin any negotiations until the ongoing war between Mediaset and Vivendi is settled.

If, as seems likely, Mediaset and Vivendi fail to strike a new agreement over the ownership of Mediaset Premium, the Italian group would most likely look for an alternative partner. Without a deal it is not believed likely that Mediaset would be in a position to compete again for Serie A and European Champions League football rights. The existing rights are set to expire in 2018, and negotiations will kick off next year for the next set.

Mediaset on Friday in fact took a small step towards ratcheting down hostilities with Vivendi. The Italian company said it no longer regarded the immediate seizure of Vivendi shares, for which it had earlier lodged a legal claim, as necessary.

In a move that has been interpreted as heralding a more conciliatory tone than the Italian broadcaster has assumed of late, Mediaset said that it was no longer seeking the immediate seizure of the 3.5% stake in Vivendi that had been promised to it as part of the aborted April 8 agreement between the pair. That agreement would have seen Vivendi take control of Mediaset Premium, the pay TV unit at the centre of the dispute between the pair, with Vivendi and Mediaset exchanging stakes in each other as part of a wider strategic partnership.

In the latest development in the saga, Mediaset said that documents filed by Vivendi in connection with the case showed that the French media giant held ample number of shares in the company to ensure that there was no danger of it being unable to fulfill the commitment to pass a 3.5% stake to Mediaset in the even of the case being settled.

Mediaset’s immediate claim on its stake in Vivendi was due to be heard by a Milan court this week.

The Italian broadcaster’s main case against Vivendi, which calls for the French company to pay €50 million for every month that has passed since the April agreement was due to come into force, is to be heard in March next year.