Vivendi Eyes Italy as Key Plank of Its Expansion Plan, in Talks to Take Cattleya Stake

ROME — French media giant Vivendi is eying Italy as a key plank of its expansion plan. Negotiations are under way for the group to take a stake in leading Italian film and TV production company Cattleya as unconfirmed reports swirl about a bid being made for Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset Premium paybox.

The Paris-based conglomerate, which is the parent company of European film-TV group Studiocanal and Universal Music Group, has made no mystery of its “willingness to invest in Southern Europe,” as it stated in its February 18 earnings report that revealed a $7 billion cash pile, at least up until Dec. 31.

Talks between Vivendi and Cattleya are being confirmed by several sources, including a Vivendi spokesman who told Italian news agency AdnKronos they are “ongoing.” Cattleya had no comment on Wednesday.

The prominent Rome-based shingle, which is currently 20% owned by Universal, has been beefing up its TV production side in recent years, most recently with a mob-themed TV series titled “Suburra” being made for Netflix. In 2015 it more than doubled its revenues to $82 million. Recent films include a “Suburra” movie, helmed by Stefano Sollima, which had a solid run at the local box office.

Cattleya is partners with Studiocanal and Vivendi’s Canal Plus paybox on high-profile TV series “Zero-ZeroZero,” about the global cocaine trade. The skein is based on a book by star author Roberto Saviano, who penned the “Gomorrah” tome from which Sky’s hit “Gomorrah” skein was spinned off. “Zero,” which will track a drug shipment from Colombia to Mexico, then to the mountainous parts of Calabria, in Southern Italy, is set to go into production next year.

Meanwhile, Vivendi has raised its stake in Italian telco Telecom Italia by 1.4% to 22.8%, it emerged on Sunday, a day after Italo daily Corriere della Sera reported they made an offer for Mediaset Premium. Both moves are seen as part of a plan to create a pan-European integrated pay-TV platform. Mediaset has denied  a Vivendi bid for its pay-TV unit. But sources say the deal is stalled over the unit’s price.

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