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Vivendi ‘close to agreement’ with AGCOM over Mediaset stake

The Vivendi office is seen in Paris on Wednesday, May 17, 2006.Vivendi is close to finding an agreement with Italian regulator AGCOM over the fate of its shares in Mediaset, according to press reports.

Vivendi, which currently holds a 28.8% stake in the broadcaster, has proposed transferring its holding above the 10% threshold mandated by AGCOM into a blind trust, according to Reuters, citing unnamed sources.

According to the news agency, the regulator will study the terms of the agreement ahead of its news meeting on September 13, but a final decision is not expected before April next year.

The idea of placing the holding in a blind trust was initially reported by Italian press in August.

Vivendi will have one year to meet conform with AGCOM’s ruling that it must reduce its holding, or face a fine of up to 5% of its revenue.

AGCOM ruled earlier this year that Vivendi’s position in Mediaset was in breach of the Testo Unico dei Servizi di Media Audiovisivi e Radiofonici (TUSMAR) regulation that determines 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, such as Mediaset.

The ruling arose because Vivendi simultaneously holds a 24% stake in Telecom Italia.

Vivendi is appealing against the AGCOM ruling, while working to meet its demands at the same time.

Despite the ongoing hostility between Vivendi and Mediaset, with the latter claiming additional damages in June related to Vivendi’s decision to pull out of a deal that would have seen it take over the Italian company’s pay TV arm, there has been considerable speculation in the Italian press this week that the pair could still come to some sort of agreement. This has centred on the idea that Mediaset could participate in the planned premium content JV between Vivendi and Telecom Italia, creating a more powerful pay TV competitor to Sky with distribution via Telecom Italia’s network.