February 16, 2018 / 2:08 PM / 4 months ago

Vivendi-Mediaset agreement unlikely before Italy's March 4 vote: source

PARIS/MILAN (Reuters) - An out-of-court agreement between French media group Vivendi (VIV.PA) and Italian broadcasting company Mediaset (MS.MI) over a pay-TV dispute is unlikely to be reached before Italy’s March 4 general elections, said a source close to the matter.

FILE PHOTO: The Vivendi logo is pictured at the main entrance of the entertainment-to-telecoms conglomerate headquarters in Paris, March 10, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

“No negotiation is possible between Vivendi and Mediaset until March 4,” the source said on Friday.

The two groups have been in a legal battle after the French company unexpectedly pulled out in July 2016 of a deal to buy Mediaset’s pay-TV unit Premium. Vivendi then bought a 29 percent stake in the Milan-based TV group.

Former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Mediaset’s top investor, is seeking 3 billion euros ($3.7 billion) in damages. The next hearing of the court case will be on Feb. 27.

“It is true that Silvio Berlusconi will play a decisive role for building a majority in Italy. He dedicates all his time to this.” the source added.

“Over the last two months Berlusconi has only been doing politics and it could last one more month,” the source said.

Vivendi declined to comment on the matter.

“The legal dispute goes ahead and that the hearing of Feb. 27 is confirmed. We’ll see each other in court!”, a Mediaset spokesperson said.

Bollore has invested 5 billion euros in Italy in the last three years, including a controlling stake in former phone monopoly Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI), which is considered of strategic interest by Rome.

($1 = 0.8023 euros)

Reporting by Gwenaelle Barzic; Additional reporting by Giancarlo Navach in Milan; Writing by Sudip Kar-Gupta; Editing by Jean-Michel Belot

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