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Mediaset Shares Rise on Speculation of Pan-European Pact With Vivendi

Shares in Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset are rising on the Milan stock exchange on unconfirmed reports that talks are under way with French media giant Vivendi to reach a strategic alliance that would create a integrated pan-European pay-TV platform and content production giant.

Mediaset shares were up more than two percent by midday Wednesday to Euros 3.46 ($3.6), as Italo financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore said the Milan banking community believes in the possibility of a pact between Mediaset, which is Italy’s biggest private commercial broadcaster with a substantial presence in Spain, and Vivendi, parent company of European film-TV group Studiocanal.

Mediaset is Italy’s top private free-to-air player and operates Mediaset Premium, which is the country’s struggling second paybox after Murdoch-owned Sky.

Earlier this week Turin daily La Stampa said reps for Vivendi and Mediaset met in Paris last week to discuss a far-ranging alliance that would include an exchange of stakes.

Neither company has commented. Il Sole said Wednesday that several Milan investment banks are jockeying for position to act as advisers.

For Mediaset, “The creation of a European pay-TV group with Vivendi would be an important and positive step because it would add value to Mediaset Premium by creating an international alliance that would allow it to be more competitive in the rights market,” said Italian investment bank Equita in a note.

Vivendi 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.


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