French media group Vivendi has been ordered to reduce its stake in either Telecom Italia or commercial broadcaster Mediaset by Italy’s communications regulator AGCom (Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni). It has to comply within 12 months, after AGCom deemed it was in breach of rules designed to prevent a concentration of power.
Vivendi is the biggest single shareholder in Telecom Italia with 24 per cent, and has built up its stake in Mediaset to 28.8 per cent, confirming in December 2016 that it would increase its investment in Mediaset by acquiring additional shares depending on market conditions within the limits of 30 per cent of the share capital and voting rights.
AGCom found that Vivendi exercised significant influence over both firms and was therefore in breach of the anti-trust rules threatening to fine Vivendi an amount equal to between 2 and 5 per cent of its revenues unless it complied with the divestment. It did not specify the required level of divestment but ordered Vivendi to present it with a “specific plan of action” within 60 days.
In a Statement, Vivendi said was “surprised” by the decision and reserved the right to take any appropriate legal action.
“Vivendi has always operated within Italian law, and specifically the Gasparri Law regarding the protection of media pluralism from the creation of dominant positions. In particular, it is undisputable that Vivendi neither controls nor exercises a dominant influence on Mediaset which is controlled on an exclusive basis by Fininvest with a stake close to 40 per cent,” it stated.
“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 (TAR) and to submit a formal complaint to the European Commission for the breach of EU law,” it declared.
“Vivendi continues to be fully confident in the rule of law and is certain that finally its rights will be recognised,” it concluded.
AGCOM opened the investigation into Vivendi on December 21 2016 after Mediaset filed a complaint.