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Italy, AGCOM flag concerns over Vivendi's push for Mediaset

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Italy, AGCOM flag concerns over Vivendi's push for Mediaset

The Italian government and the country's telecom regulator AGCOM have stepped into Vivendi SA's move to acquire a 20% holding in Italian broadcaster Mediaset SpA.

Italian Industry Minister Carlo Calenda said the government does not like the timing and methods used by Vivendi in building its stake in Mediaset, Reuters reported Dec. 16, citing a source close to the matter. Calenda also reportedly asked Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine to shed light on the company's plans for Mediaset.

Meanwhile, AGCOM said Vivendi's move could violate a provision in an Italian law named Testo Unico dei Servizi di Media Audiovisivi e Radiofonici, or TUSMAR, which prohibits electronic communications firms with a market share of more than 40% to control more than 10% of large TV, radio and publishing firms such as Mediaset, Digital TV Europe reported the same day.

AGCOM pointed out that Vivendi's move to take control of two companies could be prohibited. Besides holding a stake in Mediaset, with a 13.3% share in the media services market, the French media conglomerate owns a 24.68% holding in Telecom Italia SpA, which has a 44.7% share of Italy's telecom sector.

De Puyfontaine said in an interview with Corriere della Sera that Vivendi's push to buy stakes Mediaset is part of its long-term plans to create a European company with a global reach, Reuters reported Dec. 17. He added that Vivendi would have launched a takeover bid if it were to fully acquire Mediaset, but he refused to say whether Vivendi might eventually launch such a bid.

Recently, Vivendi gradually increased its holding in Mediaset. The latter's biggest shareholder, Fininvest SpA, has filed a complaint against Vivendi for alleged market manipulation regarding the move.

Vivendi originally agreed to purchase Mediaset's pay-TV business Mediaset Premium as part of a stake swap deal, which eventually fell apart. Mediaset has asked an Italian court to seize a 3.5% stake following the failed deal.