October 15, 2019 / 2:55 PM / 4 months ago

Vivendi asks Milan court to suspend Mediaset's corporate overhaul

MILAN (Reuters) - French conglomerate Vivendi (VIV.PA) has filed summary proceedings in Italy against Mediaset’s (MS.MI) plan to merge its Italian and Spanish businesses into a new Dutch holding company, Mediaset said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: The Mediaset tower is seen at in Cologno Monzese, near Milan, Italy, April 8, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

The reorganization plan by Italy’s top commercial broadcaster aims to create the new entity - called MediaforEurope - to pursue pan-European tie-ups to take on increasing competition in the industry and stalling growth in its domestic market.

But Vivendi, Mediaset’s second largest shareholder, is challenging the plan in courts as it includes a governance structure that would help Fininvest, the holding company of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, to tighten its grip over the broadcaster.

A hearing on Vivendi’s summary proceedings in Italy against Mediaset’s plan is scheduled on Oct. 30 in Milan, Mediaset said in a statement.

Mediaset also confirmed on Tuesday that the French group has dropped summary proceedings filed in an Amsterdam court against the plan.

Vivendi has been a hostile Mediaset shareholder since the tycoons who control the two companies, Vincent Bollore and Berlusconi, fell out in 2016 over an aborted pay-TV deal. They have been in a legal war ever since.

In Italy, Mediaset’s merger plan was approved at a shareholder meeting where Vivendi was allowed to vote only with the 9.6% Mediaset stake it owns directly.

Vivendi, which is also Telecom Italia’s (TLIT.MI) top investor, was forced by the Italian communication watchdog AGCOM to transfer two-thirds of its 29% stake in Mediaset to an arms-length trust which Mediaset prevented from participating in the meeting.

Vivendi has appealed against the ruling by AGCOM and is currently awaiting a decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ). Mediaset said Vivendi had requested the Milan court to suspend Mediaset’s reorganization plan pending the ECJ decision.

Last week a Spanish court granted Vivendi, which in the summer built a 1% stake in Mediaset’s Spanish unit (TL5.MC), a preliminary suspension of the plan.

Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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