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Mediaset, Vivendi CEOs to resume contacts after EU court ruling: sources

MILAN (Reuters) - The heads of Vivendi VIV.PA and Mediaset MS.MI are expected to resume contacts, two sources familiar with the matter said, after a European court ruled in favour of the French media group in a long-running dispute with the Italian broadcaster.

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Vivendi is the second-biggest investor in Mediaset, after the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, with a 29% stake.

Vivendi built its holding, which Mediaset considers hostile, after a collapsed pay-TV deal which has led to a multi-billion legal row between the two groups.

The European Court of Justice last week strengthened Vivendi’s hand in the battle with Mediaset by ruling that an Italian law which forced Vivendi to freeze most of its voting rights in Mediaset violated EU rules.

Following the verdict, an Italian court scheduled for Dec. 16 a hearing to discuss Vivendi’s appeal against the regulatory decision that froze its voting rights in Mediaset, two legal sources told Reuters on Monday.

Mediaset CEO Pier Silvio Berlusconi is set to speak in the near future with Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine, the sources said speaking on condition of anonymity because the matter is private. They declined to provide further details.

Speculation about a possible compromise between the two groups in the wake of the EU ruling have lifted Mediaset shares in recent days.

The stock closed up 9% on Monday ahead of a board meeting on Tuesday to approve first-half results.

The meeting comes after Vivendi scored another victory against Mediaset, securing a court ruling in the Netherlands which put a stop to the broadcaster’s plan to set up a Dutch holding company to pursue alliances in Europe.

Analysts say uncertainty over the health of Berlusconi, 83, adds to the stock’s speculative appeal after the four-times prime minister contracted pneumonia due to a COVID-19 infection.

Reporting by Elvira Pollina in Milan and Sarah White in Paris, writing by Valentina Za; Editing by Angus MacSwan

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