Vivendi’s Bollore turns up heat on Berlusconi over Mediaset

French tycoon takes 3% holding in Italian media group and holds out prospect of building a 20% stake

Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose holding company Fininvest is the controlling shareholder in mediaset. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

Italy’s former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose holding company Fininvest is the controlling shareholder in mediaset. Photograph: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters

 

French tycoon Vincent Bollore has raised the stakes in a battle of nerves with Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset by saying Vivendi could buy up to a fifth of the Italian broadcaster, stirring talk of a hostile takeover bid.

Vivendi, led by Mr Bollore, its chairman and biggest shareholder, now owns 3 per cent of Mediaset and has said it could raise that to 10-20 per cent “to begin with”, as part of the French media group’s strategy to expand into southern Europe.

Mr Bollore’s move has deepened a feud that began in July when the French company ditched an agreement to take control of Mediaset’s pay-TV unit, Premium, and give the two companies shareholdings in each other. Instead, the two groups are facing off in court, with a first hearing due in March.

A source close to the matter said a hostile takeover by Vivendi was not on the agenda “today”, but the French group wanted to strengthen its position to reopen discussions with the Berlusconi family.

Mediaset’s shares, under pressure since the pay-TV dispute, jumped as much as 26 per cent to €3.44 climbing back to levels they stood at before Vivendi dropped the Premium deal. Vivendi shares were flat. – Reuters