French media and communications group Vivendi has been granted conditional approval by the European Commission (EC) to maintain its interests in Telecom Italia and Italian pay-TV provider Mediaset. The EC wants Vivendi to push ahead with its earlier offer to sell Telecom Italia’s 70% stake in broadcasting services provider Persidera, thereby addressing concerns that the French firm is amassing a dominant position in the Italian broadcasting sector. Vivendi controls around 24% of Telecom Italia and 29% of Mediaset, and there are fears that the telco could bundle its own products with pay-TV offers from Mediaset to give it an unfair advantage in Italy’s multi-play sector.
A report from Reuters cites analysts as saying that a sale of Persidera is still far from certain, however, with Telecom Italia and 30% shareholder publisher GEDI having previously failed to attract an offer which matches their EUR138 million (USD155 million) valuation of the company.
Although the EC decision is arguably good news for Vivendi, it must still appease Italian competition regulators. In April this year Italy’s Communications Regulatory Authority (Autorita per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni, Agcom) ruled that Vivendi must reduce its stake in either Telecom Italia or Mediaset within twelve months. Vivendi has until mid-June to present a report to Agcom saying how it intends to proceed. If the Persidera deal is not enough to pacify the regulator, it is thought that Vivendi will choose to cut its influence at Mediaset rather than reducing its holding in Telecom Italia.