French police accompanied by representatives of Italy’s financial police, the Guardia di Finanza, searched Vivendi’s HQ in Paris for evidence pertaining to the Milan-based investigation into possible market manipulation by the French media giant surrounding its acquisition of 28.8% of Mediaset at the end of last year.
Police also reportedly searched the Paris offices of Natixis, the broker through which Vivendi acquired Mediaset’s shares.
Mediaset has alleged that Vivendi deliberately caused its share price to fall by reneging on the pair’s agreement whereby the French media giant would have taken control of the Italian broadcaster’s loss-making pay TV unit, Mediaset Premium, last year. The fall in Mediaset’s share price, it is alleged, subsequently enabled Vivendi to buy up Mediaset shares.
Mediaset and its main shareholder Fininvest are separately suing Vivendi for financial damages incurred from the abandonment of the deal and damage to Mediaset’s image.
Vivendi has maintained that it acted in good faith and has expressed continued confidence that it will ultimately strike some sort of deal with Mediaset.
“Regarding the complaint filed against Vivendi by the Berlusconi Group, which has resulted in a search of Vivendi’s offices, Vivendi’s management reaffirms that it acquired its stake in Mediaset totally legally and transparently and remains absolutely confident in the conclusion of this disagreement,” the company said.
Vivendi is facing a battle on two fronts in Italy – with Mediaset and Milanese prosecutors on one hand, and with the Italian government and regulators on the other over what the latter maintain is its ‘controlling’ interest in Telecom Italia (TIM).
Regarding TIM, the Italian telco’s chairman – and Vivendi CEO – Arnaud de Puyfontaine told an EY Digital Summit in Capri yesterday that he was open to meet with government representatives and regulators to explain TIM’s strategy and argued that the telco’s plans were fully aligned with the government’s goal of building Italy’s broadband infrastructure, according to various reports.
De Puyfontaine said that he was “pragmatic” about the future direction of the company, but indicated there were no plans to split the network infrastructure part of the business from the rest.