June 16, 2020 / 9:09 AM / 20 days ago

Spanish court sets July 1 hearing on Mediaset merger plan

MADRID, June 16 (Reuters) - A commercial court in Madrid has set a July 1 hearing on the Italian broadcaster Mediaset’s plans to merge its Italian and Spanish divisions under a Dutch holding, Mediaset Espana said in a filing with the Spanish regulator.

The Spanish commercial court suspended the merger in October as a precautionary measure after French media group Vivendi , a major shareholder in Mediaset, brought a legal challenge. The hearing to resolve the case was later delayed by the coronavirus pandemic which disrupted the Spanish judicial system.

Two legal sources told Reuters the court’s ruling, on which the merger is pending, would not come until a few days, or weeks, after the hearing, with one of the sources saying it could be announced around July 20.

Mediaset, controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, wants to merge the units under Dutch holding firm MediaforEurope (MFE) to pursue a European growth strategy to tackle competition from streaming rivals such as Netflix.

Vivendi, led by French billionaire Vincent Bollore, says the governance structure of the new entity would strengthen Berlusconi’s grip on the company. (Reporting by Paola Luelmo and Emma Pinedo, editing by Andrei Khalip, Kirsten Donovan)

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