Vivendi and TIM call in the lawyers over shareholding

By:
Alan Burkitt-Gray
Published on:

Top lawyers to advise Vivendi as Italian government ponders issue of control over Telecom Italia

Vivendi and Telecom Italia have both engaged lawyers to advise them on whether the French media group exercises control over the Italian operator with its 24% shareholding.

According to Reuters, lawyers have advised Telecom Italia – which markets itself under the TIM brand in Italy and Brazil – that Vivendi’s influence does not breach Italian government rules about strategic companies.

The news agency, citing a document it has seen, says TIM “has sent the opinion to the Italian government, which is looking into whether Vivendi failed to meet an obligation to notify it of its effective control of a firm considered a strategic national asset”.

Meanwhile La Repubblica newspaper says Vivendi has hired its own lawyers and has written to the government to deny it has control. Vivendi is worried that the government might exercise a so-called “golden power”, under a law of 2012, to thwart its influence.

Vivendi’s lawyers are having to argue that it does not control Telecom Italia, even though it seems to have influenced a number of management changes in the past few months: the appointment of a majority of the board, chaired by Vivendi CEO Arnaud de Puyfontaine, the demotion of previous chairman Giuseppe Recchi to deputy chairman, the resignation of Flavio Cattaneo as CEO, and the appointment of Vivendi’s chief convergence officer, Amos Genish, as head of operations.

Vivendi issued a statement last Monday that it does not control Telecom Italia and its lawyers, named as Sabino Cassese and Andrea Zoppini, are seeking to defend that. According to La Repubblica, they are arguing that none of the actions justify the Italian government exercising its golden power.

Meanwhile, Vivendi has quietly transferred a significant quantity of its shares in Silvio Berlusconi’s media company, Mediaset, into a blind trust, according to newspaper Il Sole.

Vivendi owns almost 30% of Mediaset, and the media regulator Agcom has told it that it cannot have significant stakes in both a media company and a telecoms company. The French group is appealing against the ruling but has put all shares in Mediaset above 10% into the trust.