Mediaset Fears Hostile Takeover Attempt As Vivendi Eyes 20% Stake

Associated Press

UPDATE: A mere day after declaring its intention to buy up to a 20% stake in Mediaset, Vincent Bolloré’s French media giant Vivendi has taken 12% of the Italian broadcaster’s shares. The swift move comes shortly after Vivendi announced it had taken 3% of the company with the intention of acquiring a fifth of Silvio Berlusconi’s company. Mediaset shares saw a 36% hike on Tuesday, their biggest one-day gain on record. According to Reuters, Fininvest, Berlusconi’s holding company and the largest Mediaset stakeholder, said it had filed a complaint against Vivendi with prosecutors in Milan and market regulator Consob, citing market manipulation. Watch this space.

PREVIOUS: The feud between Mediaset and French media giant Vivendi is heating up as Vivendi announced on Monday that it plans to buy up to 20% of shares in the Italian broadcaster, having already acquired 3% stake, in what Mediaset is calling the first step towards a hostile takeover bid for the company.

Shares in Mediaset jumped 26%, a six-month high, on Tuesday following Vivendi chairman Vincent Bolloré’s indication that it plans to raise its stake to as much as a fifth of the Italian media group.

The move represents another milestone in Bolloré’s strategy to expand into southern Europe to create a non-U.S.-based global media giant. It’s the latest chapter in a long-running public battle between the two broadcasters, which has seen them at locked horns since July when Vivendi backed out of an agreement that would have given Vivendi control of Mediaset’s pay-TV unit, Premium, and given the two companies 3.5% equity stakes in each other.

In a statement, Mediaset said that Vivendi’s intention to purchase shares on the market “confirms intentions on Vivendi’s part, which Mediaset had noted on July 26, 2016, to shift from an industrial agreement to a [hostile] takeover attempt.”

A statement from Vivendi on Tuesday said that the “strategic interest of the industrial partnership…supersedes the stakes of the lawsuit” and that it would continue to acquire Mediaset shares “until possible becoming Mediaset’s second largest indusrial shareholder.”

If Vivendi were to acquire 20% of the group, it would rank behind Fininvest, the Italian holiding company owned by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s family, which owns about a third of Mediaset.

Vivendi is already the majority shareholder at Italian phone company Telecom Italia, after building up a 24.9% stake and Bolloré is also a key shareholder of Italian investment bank Mediobanca.

Bolloré’s strategy is an aggressive one but it’s paving the way for his desire to make Vivendi a genuine global media and content giant based out of Europe. In February, Vivendi officially launched its hostile takeover for French video game publisher Gameloft, founded France’s Guillemot brothers, who also own Assassin’s Creed maker Ubisoft.

In June, it completed its take over of Gameloft and earlier this month, Vivendi upped its stake in Ubisoft from 24% to 25.15%, a move which Ubisoft described as “another indication that Bolloré and Vivendi are continuing an ill-advised and value-destructive approach of trying to take creeping control of companies like Ubisoft.”

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