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Vivendi ‘could take control’ of Telecom Italia

Telecom ItaliaVivendi could take effective control of Telecom Italia next month after the Italian telco appoints a new board of directors, according to a report by Reuters.

According to the news agency, citing three unnamed sources, the French media group has filed a pre-emptive notification with the European Commission that it could take ‘de facto’ control of Telecom Italia. According to Reuters, Vivendi is seeking to take two thirds of the telco’s board seats.

Telecom Italia’s shareholder meeting is set to vote on the board appointments at the meeting on May 4.

An EC spokesman told Reuters it had received Vivendi’s notification and would rule on it by May 12.

Last week, Reuters reported that Vivendi could put forward CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine as its candidate to take over as chairman of Telecom Italia.

Vivendi is currently being investigated by Italian competition watchdog AGCOM over whether the fact that it simultaneously holds a 24.68% stake in Telecom Italia and close to 30% of broadcaster Mediaset breaches the country’s  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.

Vivendi has reportedly argued that any move against it would imply a rewriting of existing rules and could be discriminatory.

Mediaset and Vivendi have been at loggerheads since Vivendi pulled out of a deal to acquire the Italian broadcaster’s loss-making pay TV unit Mediaset Premium last year.

In addition to suits filed against the French company by both Mediaset and its controlling shareholder Fininvest, the latter has accused Vivendi of manipulating the stock market, forcing down Mediaset’s shares so that it could acquire a large tranche of them at a knock-down price. Mediaset CEO Pier Silvio Berlusconi this week testified before the Milan prosecutor investigating the matter.