November 25, 2019 / 1:23 PM / 15 days ago

Mediaset CEO upbeat on reaching accord with Vivendi

FILE PHOTO: Mediaset's Chief Executive Pier Silvio Berlusconi poses after a media conference at the headquarter in Cologno Monzese, near Milan, Italy, April 8, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini

COLOGNO MONZESE, MILAN (Reuters) - The head of Italian broadcaster Mediaset (MS.MI) is upbeat about reaching a deal to end a three-year legal battle with major shareholder Vivendi (VIV.PA), providing the French media giant does not move the goalposts.

Vivendi and Mediaset are locked in a series of legal spats including over the Italian firm’s plans to create a pan-European TV champion through the merger of its Italian and Spanish units into a Dutch holding company called MediaForEurope (MFE).

On Friday, a Milan judge gave the two sides another week to settle their dispute over MFE after attempts to reach an accord ahead of the hearing had failed.

But Mediaset Chief Executive Pier Silvio Berlusconi told reporters on Monday: “If what we learned today from the talks is kept to, we are very optimistic.” He did not give details.

Vivendi, Mediaset’s No. 2 shareholder, fears the plans to set up MFE would give too much power to the Italian group’s main shareholder Fininvest, which is owned by the family of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Pier Silvio Berlusconi, son of Silvio, said Mediaset needed to grow, adding the creation of a large European broadcaster was the only sure way to achieve this.

“Mediaset will press ahead with its European growth plans in any case and if it’s not via a merger or a Dutch holding company then we’ll do it in another way,” he said.

According to sources familiar with the matter, Vivendi is in talks to sell back to Mediaset roughly two-thirds of its 29% stake in the Italian broadcaster but differences over price remain.

Failure to reach a deal over pan-European TV plans could complicate Mediaset’s efforts to tackle increasing competition from streaming services such as Netflix (NFLX.O) and Amazon Prime (AMZN.O).

Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Mark Potter

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