Italy tells Vivendi to decide between Telecom Italia and Mediaset

Alan Burkitt-Gray
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Regulator says Vivendi must reduce its holding in either telco or broadcaster within 12 months or face a fine

AGCOM - GTB top 19.04.17Italy’s communications regulator has blocked Vivendi’s move to become a telecoms and media force in the country by telling the French group it must choose between one or the other.

The Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni (AGCom) has given Vivendi 12 months to end what it calls a “prohibited position” of being the biggest shareholder not only in Telecom Italia but also in the Mediaset broadcasting group.

Vivendi said it was “surprised by the decision” and said it had “always operated within Italian law”.

The group owns 24% of Telecom Italia, which operates as TIM in the consumer market and Sparkle in the wholesale carrier market, and 28.8% of Mediaset, which is controlled by Silvio Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister.

Vivendi said: “It is undisputable that Vivendi neither controls nor exercises a dominant influence on Mediaset which is controlled on an exclusive basis by [the Berlusconi family’s] Fininvest with a stake close to 40%.”

AGCom disagreed, saying that Vivendi exercised significant power over both groups. It threatened to fine Vivendi 2-5% of its revenues if it did not reduce its stake in one or the other by April 2018. Vivendi’s annual revenues were more than €10 billion in 2016.

The regulator said: “Vivendi is required to submit within 60 days a specific plan of action that the company intends to take to comply with the order.”

The French group replied: “Vivendi reserves the right to take any appropriate legal action to protect its interests, including filing an appeal to the AGCom decision at the regional administrative court and to submit a formal complaint to the European Commission for the breach of EU law.”