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Mediaset edges towards Vivendi talks as merger hits roadblock

Mediaset has abandoned its existing plan to merge its Italian and Spanish arms under a Dutch-registered holding company – MediaForEurope – after suffering a legal defeat in its battle with Vivendi in Spain, but has said it is willing to engage with the French media company – albeit while rejecting the latter’s initial approach in the wake of the court decision.  

Mediaset said that while it did “not share the conclusions” of the Spanish court that rejected its appeal against the ruling that had earlier suspended the merger, its board had concluded that the current plan was unworkable because the ruling prevented it from completing the merger process within the agreed deadline.

The Italian media group said that its board had begun studying how to achieve the objectives of the MediaForEurope plan.

However, the company has also clearly recognised that the judgement constitutes a major setback and an obstacle in the way of achieving its goal of creating a new pan-European media organisation, something it blames on the “prejudicial hostility of Vivendi”.

Following its legal win in Spain, Vivendi sent a letter to Mediaset’s board offering to set out a new way forward that, in its telling, protected the rights of minority shareholders. Mediaset’s board has examined the letter, which it characterised as too little, too late. It said that Vivendi’s communication lacked “the necessary concrete proposals” that could enable Mediaset to realise the objectives of the MediaForEurope project.

Mediaset said that Vivendi’s current position did not offer anything that would realise value for shareholders, provide solutions to ensure the future of the group or postpone the “irreparable damage” that the Italian outfit says it has suffered as a result of the delays.

However, it indicated that it was “ready to open a discussion” if Vivendi “is really willing to negotiate on a concrete basis oriented to the interests of all shareholders, including the majority ones”.

In the meantime, the Italian company is to make the shares of those that exercised withdrawal rights ahead of the merger available to the withdrawing shareholders as it unwinds the preparatory measures it has put in place.