Fininvest denies Vivendi proposal report

The Vivendi office is seen in Paris on Wednesday, May 17, 2006.Mediaset’s controlling shareholder Fininvest has said it has not received any fresh proposal from Vivendi to break the deadlock between the pair in their long-running dispute over the future of Mediaset’s loss-making pay TV arm, according to multiple reports.

Fininvest’s denial followed a spike in Mediaset’s share price on a report by Bloomberg, which said that Vivendi chairman Vincent Bolloré could offer Fininvest shares in the French group to pave the way for a wider deal and ratchet down tension between the pair.

Mediaset and Fininvest have responded strongly to Vivendi’s moves before Christmas to acquire a significant stake – 28.8% – in the Italian media group, with Fininvest seeking to shore up its position in order to retain control.

The latest twist in the long-running war of words between the pair, which erupted after Vivendi reneged on a deal that would have seen it take 100% control of Mediaset Premium, follows earlier Italian press speculation about the basis for a possible rapprochement.

This had been based on an idea floated by analysts at investment bank Natixis, which works closely with Vivendi. The analysts had hypothesised that Vivendi could take full control of Mediaset Premium and Mediaset’s production activities, along with a 49% stake in Mediaset proper, while Fininvest would become the second largest shareholder in Vivendi.

Under this scheme, Fininvest would retain majority control of Mediaset’s free TV activities in Italy and Spain, with Vivendi having the option to take majority control in three to five years’ time, possibly in exchange for shares.