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Italy asks court to postpone decision on Vivendi’s Mediaset stake

Italy has asked an administrative court to postpone a decision over whether to unfreeze French media group Vivendi’s stake in Italy’s top commercial broadcaster Mediaset, the state lawyer’s office said on Saturday.

The move follows the approval of a bill which forces the communications watchdog AGCOM to start a new probe into Vivendi’s interests in the Italian media and telecoms sector.

Vivendi, which is also the top investor in Telecom Italia with a 24% stake, had requested the court the remove restrictions on its 29% Mediaset holding.

The administrative court will assess the case at a hearing set for Dec. 16.

Two legal sources told Reuters on Saturday the state lawyer’s office had requested the court to postpone the decision, a move which the office confirmed.

AGCOM in 2017 forced the French group to freeze two-thirds of its stake in Mediaset in a trust. The trust has been prevented from voting at Mediaset’s shareholder meetings.

A postponement of the court’s decision might help Mediaset, controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, in a long-running legal battle against its second-largest shareholder Vivendi.

The two groups have been locked in a fight since 2016 when Vivendi ditched an accord to buy Mediaset’s pay-TV unit and built a 29% stake which Mediaset considers hostile. Attempts to reach a compromise have been unsuccessful so far.

In September the European Union’s top court ruled that an Italian law setting market share thresholds to prevent excessive power concentration in telecoms and media was against EU rules.

That prompted Rome to approve a stop-gap legislation requiring AGCOM to start a new inquiry on Vivendi’s twin stakes in Telecom Italia and Mediaset pending a wider reform of the Italian media laws.

The new inquiry would assess whether Vivendi’s positions comply with legislation aimed at preventing a concentration of power harming media plurality.

Mediaset and Vivendi declined to comment. Reuters

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