French and Italian media empires clash over Mediaset

Mediaset television empire owned by Silvio Berlusconi

 ROME -- French multinational mass media conglomerate Vivendi took 12 percent in shares of media mogul Silvio Berlusconi's television empire Mediaset, and still aims for 20, causing a direct clash Wednesday between Vivendi and the Berlusconi’s Fininvest holding company.

 The French media company Vivendi, led by CEO of Bolloré investment group, Vincent Bolloré, announced Monday it had surpassed its threshold of 3 percent ownership of capital within Berlusconi’s Italian television empire Mediaset, following a significant ownership rise Tuesday to 12.32 percent.

 Vivendi has now taken over 12 percent of Mediaset, and still aims for more, as Bolloré himself said, up to “20 percent.” Meanwhile, Fininvest, the Italian holding company controlled by the Berlusconi family and managed by ex-PM’s daughter Marina Berlusconi, increased its shareholding to 38.26 percent.

 Fininvest, who previously owned 34.7 percent of Mediaset, immediately bought 27.66 million ordinary shares in the television company, and stipulated a contract for the right to take over another 14 million Wednesday -- this equals 3.527 percent of the company’s capital.

 If desired, the major shareholder’s quota could still be rounded up to reach five percent of capital, without running into the obligation of a takeover -- the acquisition of this public company.

 For the duration of a year, no other acquisitions were agreed upon, unless, like here, a bid is thrown onto the market. However, Finnivest has presented this case against Vivendi to the Public Prosecutor’s Office for “manipulation of the market,” Il Sole 24 ore writes.

 In October, the mapping out of the floating capital in institutional hands saw Italians in a minority position with 3.5 percent, while 23.3 percent of Mediaset’s capital was traceable to north-American investors, with France and Benelux at 8.1 percent and the UK at 7.3 percent.

 The most important names were Lazard asset management with a quota estimated at 5.6 percent, Mackenzie with 2.7 percent, and norges Bank with 1.8 percent.

 Fabio Bogo, vice-director of La Repubblica newspaper commented that in the Single Market, Amundi’s purchase of Pioneer and Vivendi’s move on Mediaset are both legitimate but show Italy’s growing weakness in front of the “French avalanche.”