Fri, Sep 15, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Vivendi ‘controls’ Telecom Italia: market watchdog

AFP, MILAN, Italy

Italy’s market watchdog on Wednesday said that French media group Vivendi SA had “de facto control” over Telecom Italia SpA, but the Italian operator said it would contest the decision.

Vivendi’s role in Italy’s telecom sector has come under growing scrutiny since the company built up a stake of 23.94 percent in Telecom Italia and took 28.8 percent of the nation’s biggest commercial broadcaster, Mediaset SpA.

If Vivendi is found guilty of failing to have notified the Italian authorities of its control of Telecom Italia, it risks a minimum fine of 300 million euros (US$357 million).

“After a thorough analysis of the current laws and the facts on the ground, [market watchdog] Consob has concluded that Vivendi’s stake in Telecom Italia qualifies as de facto control,” a statement said.

Vivendi, the biggest shareholder in Telecom Italia, has consistently denied controlling the company, saying that it only exercises “management and coordination activities.”

Telecom Italia said it “will take all legal action to defend its interests and is confident that its actions have been correct and its arguments solid.”

Meanwhile, Vivendi said it “formally contests that interpretation and will appeal to the competent courts,” adding that the group “has always complied with applicable laws and regulation.”

The Italian government is looking into whether Vivendi breached an obligation to notify Rome of its controlling role at Telecom Italia, a company considered a strategic national asset.

“In strategic sectors, companies have an obligation to communicate,” an official source said.

On April 18, Italy’s telecom watchdog Agcom gave Vivendi one year to reduce its stake either in Mediaset or Telecom Italia. Vivendi had 60 days to present its plan of action.

Vivendi is to transfer 19.19 percent of its stake in Mediaset to an “independent subsidiary” and is to not be authorized to sell its stake in Mediaset to Telecom Italia, according to Vivendi’s plan published on Wednesday by Agcom.

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