Vivendi denies Mediaset talks report

The Vivendi office is seen in Paris on Wednesday, May 17, 2006.Vivendi has denied an Italian press report that suggested the French media giant and its chairman Vincent Bolloré were inclined to resume negotiations with Mediaset to strike a new deal over ownership of the Italian broadcaster’s pay TV arm, Mediaset Premium.

Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore reported, citing unnamed sources, that Bolloré was willing to involve Telecom Italia, the Italian national telco in which Vivendi is the largest shareholder, in a new deal.

According to the report, one plan being discussed is for Vivendi, Mediaset and Telecom Italia each to take a one third stake in the loss-making pay TV unit, which would avoid any one shareholder consolidating Premium’s losses in its financial reporting.

Il Sole 24 Ore said that Telecom Italia had denied involvement in any such scheme.

Vivendi denied being involved in any talks.

Mediaset boss Pier Silvio Berlusconi was yesterday reported by Italian press as saying that Vivendi had inflicted “serious damage” on Mediaset and added that Mediaset was looking at alternative plans to create a wider European pay TV platform, possibly with other partners. He said Mediaset had struck a “binding” agreement with Vivendi, declining to comment further ahead of the hearing scheduled on the case in March.

Berlusconi declined to comment on rumours of talks with Sky about forging a pay TV alliance.

Vivendi and Mediaset struck a deal in April whereby the former agreed to take control of Mediaset Premium. However, the French company subsequently pulled out on the grounds that the pay TV unit’s financial prospects were worse than it had been led to believe, something vigorously denied by Mediaset. The pair are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute over the matter.




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