Vivendi has been quickly pulling together a major stake in Mediaset after the breakdown of a deal between the two companies for Vivendi to buy Mediaset's pay TV arm. In late December, Vivendi raised its ownership to 28.8%.
"The Mediaset-Vivendi investigation, opened on Dec. 21, is still ongoing ... all due checks to analyze the technical, judicial and market aspects (of the case) are being carried out," AGCOM says, adding it must complete its probe within 120 days unless extended.
That puts it quite near the 30% threshold at which point it would need to make a full bid for the company.
Rhetoric between the two companies has ratcheted up throughout the year after a deal for Vivendi to buy Mediaset's pay TV arm, Mediaset Premium, fell through over the summer.
Meanwhile, Italian officials with a keen sense of nationally strategic companies have expressed unhappiness with the rapid approach of the French giant (which has made acquisitions in southern Europe part of its strategy) and its Chairman Vincent Bollore.
De Puyfontaine will meet with Consob in Rome on Friday. In just a week, Vivendi has revealed that it rapidly assembled a 25.75% stake (26.77% of voting rights) in the Italian firm.
That follows a contentious year between the two companies during which Vivendi backed out of a deal to buy pay TV unit Mediaset Premium.
Fininvest, the family holding company of former Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi, had filed a complaint with Consob alleging market abuse, and has charged Vivendi with market manipulation. Fininvest holds 38.3% of Mediaset.
In a further escalation of hostilities between two European TV giants, Vivendi (OTCPK:VIVHY) is planning to raise its stake in Mediaset (OTCPK:MDIUY) to 30% - the upper limit above which it would be legally obliged to launch a takeover bid.
Vivendi raised its participation in Mediaset first to 3% and then 20% last week, in a move that riled the Italian government and stoked an ongoing row between the companies over a pay-TV deal.
Vivendi (OTCPK:VIVHY) has joined a number of bidders for a stake in Imagina -- parent to Mediapro and Spain's biggest sports broadcasting rights firm.
Such a move would be a new part of a "southern strategy" for Vivendi and its investments in southern Europe, following stakes in Telecom Italia and a battle for the TV business of Italy's Mediaset.
Chinese and U.S. investors make up other bidders in a group of about 10 who hope to take either a 30% or 51% stake in Imagina/Mediapro, Reuters reports. Those include Alibaba's Alisports (BABA +0.7%), China's Citic, Liberty Media (LMCA +1.7%) and Dalian Wanda.
Imagina holds the rights to distribute La Liga soccer championships as well as producing movies and television.
After a contentious year featuring a fight over an aborted TV operations deal, increasingly acquisitive Vivendi (OTCPK:VIVHY) says now that it could seek a 20% stake in Mediaset (OTCPK:MDIUY +24.4%) en route to launching a hostile takeover of the Italian company.
Vivendi has just over 3% of Mediaset now. In the summer it backed out of a deal to buy Mediaset's pay TV operations, launching a pitched cross-border battle between the two.
"Vivendi intends to carry on its purchase of shares in Mediaset, depending on market conditions, to become, if possible, the second industrial shareholder in Mediaset, which to begin with could represent 10 to 20% of Mediaset's capital," Vivendi said.
"Vincent Bollore and Vivendi have shown what their true intentions towards Mediaset were from the very start," said a statement from Fininvest, the holding company of former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, which controls Mediaset.
Mediaset's Premium TV business (or the whole company) would represent another piece in a southern Europe strategy for the French media giant, which is also the biggest shareholder at Telecom Italia (TI +1.9%).
Vivendi (OTCPK:VIVHY +5.8%) is edging closer to what could be a hostile takeover of Ubisoft (OTCPK:UBSFY +1%) after it crested the 25% ownership threshold.
The media giant filed a report on crossing 25% capital ownership with securities regulator Autorité des Marchés Financiers. Vivendi, run by mogul Vincent Bollore, holds about 22.92% of Ubisoft voting rights.
The founding Guillemot family has been taking steps all year to fend off increasing ownership by Vivendi. Vivendi had taken 100% control of Gameloft -- also run by the Guillemot family -- this year after achieving the votes to control that company in May.
If Vivendi crosses the 30% capital ownership mark, it's required by law to make a buyout offer.
In its filing, Vivendi laid out its "objectives over the coming six months," including: financing acquisitions using disposable cash; not working with any third party on its Ubisoft investment; considering more share purchases of Ubisoft; "not considering the launch of a public tender on Ubisoft nor acquiring the control of the company"; and achieving board seats and "a fruitful cooperation."
He says Havas isn't in any formal talks with Vivendi -- chaired by his father Vincent, who owns 60% of Havas. Vincent has said that the two companies should work more closely, with a possible merger later; meanwhile, Exane BNP Paribas sees a merger happening as soon as Q2 2017.
"Big content could bring a lot to advertising and advertising could bring a lot to Vivendi's entertainment world," Yannick Bollore said on the sidelines of the Morgan Stanley conference in Barcelona.
Vivendi makes up 0.05% of Havas revenues, and Havas clients make up less than 1% of Vivendi's revenues, Yannick says.
Amid continuing speculation about Telecom Italia's (TI -2.1%) intentions for Brazilian unit TIM Participações (TSU +0.9%), TI chief Flavio Cattaneo says TIM is a "good asset" as the company looks to the struggling nation for growth prospects.
"Brazil is fundamental because Brazil today is a good asset for us," Cattaneo said in Barcelona. As CEO, he had replaced Marco Patuano, who saw increasing differences with the growing ownership of Vivendi (OTCPK:VIVHY -1%) over whether to sell the Brazilian unit (Patuano wanted to hold on to it).
Listed companies in Brazil are undervalued compared with unlisted companies, he says: M&A values at 8-10 times EBITDA while listed companies are more like 4 to 4.5 times EBITDA.
He reiterated a lack of interest in merging with now-bankrupt Oi (NYSE:OIBR), whose mountain of debt is the issue: Last month, he had said "If Oi manages to split its debt from its assets ... we will be watching."
Studiocanal (OTCPK:VIVHY -0.9%), the distributor of Lionsgate films in Germany, has expanded its deal to cover films on the Summit Entertainment label, starting with Robin Hood: Origins.
Meanwhile, German distributor Tele München Gruppe will distribute three upcoming films: Horse Soldiers, Kin, and Down a Dark Hall.
"The slate of films we have this year for the international market is one of our best ever and our long-standing relationship with Tele München continues with three wonderful movies from exciting and incredibly talented filmmakers," Lionsgate says.
The first hearing on the question was set for Tuesday, but has been delayed to Nov. 23.
The two companies have fought for months after Vivendi backed out of a deal to buy Mediaset Premium, the company's pay TV unit. A share-swap deal allowed for Vivendi to take over Premium in full, and for the companies to get 3.5% stakes in each other.
The TV unit, Mediaset Premium, plays a key role in Vivendi's strategy to use Southern Europe to advance its media ambitions. But Vivendi backed out of a binding deal to take full control in July, and the companies have been at legal loggerheads since (with a court date set for March).
Vivendi now says it's no longer interested in an amicable solution after Mediaset asked a court to order seizure of a 3.5% stake in Vivendi: "Enough is enough," said a Vivendi-tied source. "We've made a lot of efforts to find a solution. This is a fair warning."
Still, backchannel negotiations have been reported and are said to still be taking place. Vivendi is said to be working a preferred alternative where Mediaset and Vivendi would each get 40% of the Premium unit and a third party would hold the remaining 20%.
Speaking to newspaper Valor Economico, Cattaneo pointed to 20B reais (about $6.2B) in fines owed by Oi, almost the same as the market value of TI's Brazilian unit TIM Participações (TSU +1.9%). "If Oi manages to split its debt from its assets ... we will be watching," Cattaneo says.
Cattaneo took over as TI's CEO amid well-documented disputes between former chief Marco Patuano and investing shareholder Vivendi (OTCPK:VIVHY +1.4%) over the disposition of TIM. Patuano was inclined to hold on to the Brazilian unit while Vivendi actively pushed to sell the division.
Working through his investment company (OTCPK:BOIVF), Bollore bought shares that boosted a previous 15% stake, and said the purchase reflected a cash settlement of existing hedging and financing on 34M shares of Vivendi, and the acquisition of another 34.7M shares through a share loan agreement.
Taking into account double voting rights, Bollore will hold about 29% of voting rights in Vivendi by April 20. The holding makes up more than half Bollore Group's market cap, close to €5B.
"These operations reflect the confidence the Bollore Group has in Vivendi's potential for development and its willingness to remain as reference shareholder of the company in the long term," Bollore Group said in a statement.
Embattled game maker Ubisoft (OTCPK:UBSFY -1.7%) and its founding Guillemot family have claimed a win as they try to fight off a hostile takeover by French media giant Vivendi (OTCPK:VIVHY -0.5%), saying that today's annual meeting resulted in Ubisoft's slate being elected.
"The shareholders expressed massive support for the strategy and the management of Ubisoft," the company said. Shareholders re-elected Yves Guillemot and Gerard Guillemot as directors, and approved the appointment of two new independent directors, Frédérique Dame and Florence Naviner.
Shareholders also approved officer compensation. The board comprises 10 members (five independent directors).
Earlier, Vivendi -- which has been steadily building a stake in Ubisoft -- said it didn't intend to seek board seats just yet.
Some resolutions were rejected in the extraordinary portion, the company says, "due to Vivendi’s systematic obstruction, impeding the proper functioning of the Company, in particular regarding its competitive compensation policy for its talents."
Today in Paris, Ubisoft shares slipped 1.2%; Vivendi gained 0.7%.
The move comes ahead of Ubisoft's annual meeting next Thursday, where a board battle will come to a head.
Vivendi began buying shares of Ubisoft and Gameloft (OTCPK:GLOFY -0.7%) -- both run by the Guillemot family -- last year, and attained the votes to control Gameloft in May. That company's CEO Michel Guillemot resigned after that, replaced by Vivendi COO Stephane Roussel.
Ubisoft is buying 3.625M shares from Bpifrance for €33.80/share, for €122.5M total, in a transaction closing by the beginning of November. The company closed down 0.8% to €34.31 today in Paris.