(recasts, adds context, reports and analyst comments)
By Giulia Segreti
MILAN Dec 15 Mediaset shares fell on
Thursday after France's Vivendi said it had reached its
initial goal of amassing a 20 percent stake in Italy's biggest
Mediaset shares posted their biggest one-day rise on record
after Vivendi said on Monday it intended to buy up to a fifth of
the Italian company in a raid seen as a possible precursor to a
full hostile takeover.
Traders and analysts said, however, that Vivendi now had
limited room to move as it was only 10 percent shy of the
ownership threshold that would trigger a mandatory bid for
Mediaset under Italian law.
"We expect Vivendi to play the long game here," investment
bank Liberum said in a note.
Vivendi Chairman Vincent Bollore is interested in Mediaset
as part of his plan to create a southern European media group
but he has fallen out spectacularly with Mediaset's founder,
former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.
Berlusconi responded to Vivendi's plan to buy 20 percent of
Mediaset by lodging a criminal complaint of market manipulation
against the French firm. Italian prosecutors are investigating.
The Italian government has also waded into the battle,
concerned that Bollore, who has interests in Telecom Italia
and Mediobanca, could end up wielding an
even bigger influence over Italy's corporate landscape.
Italian Industry Minister Carlo Calenda said on Wednesday
Rome was monitoring the Mediaset situation closely.
Berlusconi said his family, which holds 39.8 percent of
Mediaset's voting rights through investment vehicle Fininvest,
would increase its shareholding and fight any move by Vivendi to
loosen their grip on the broadcaster.
Italian dailies reported that entrepreneurs close to
Berlusconi could be willing to pick up Mediaset shares to
restrict Vivendi's room for manoeuvre.
Liberum analysts said they expected Vivendi to "eventually
'persuade' (Berlusconi) to exit the Mediaset stake, either by
selling directly to Vivendi or selling down its stake in the
Italy remains a major focus for the French media tycoon and
the acquisition of a stake in Mediaset mirrors the tactics used
by Vivendi to tighten its grip on firms such as software games
maker Ubisoft, Gameloft and Telecom Italia.
Vivendi initially acquired 2 percent of the telecoms firm in
June 2015 and in under a year it increased stake its stake to
just under 25 percent, making it the biggest investor and giving
it effective control.
"With the (shares) obtained in the last days, the French
group is close to being able to block certain decisions in
extraordinary shareholding meetings and hence obtain a greater
negotiating power with Fininvest," writes broker ICBPI.
(Additional reporting by Maria Pia Quaglia; editing by Mark
Bendeich and David Clarke)