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Shares in Berlusconi firm Mediaset jump as Vivendi eyes big stake

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MILAN  - Shares in Mediaset surged in Milan Tuesday after French media conglomerate Vivendi said it was pushing to raise its stake in the Italian TV company.

Vivendi, led by corporate raider Vincent Bollore, said Monday it would increase its Mediaset holding to up to 30 percent from 20 percent now, market conditions permitting, in a strategy that has raised fierce resistance from the Italian TV company.


In early Milan trading, Mediaset shares were 13.5 percent higher, vastly outperforming the market's main index which was up by around 0.5 percent.

Vivendi took its current stake in Mediaset, which is controlled by former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi's family, last week in a lightning move which the family -- and the Italian government -- have called "hostile".

On Monday, Berlusconi's company Fininvest said it had filed a complaint with Italian financial markets watchdog Consob against Vivendi for "market manipulation and abuse of privileged information".

This follows criminal proceedings Fininvest brought last week against Vivendi at a Milan court.


To counter the French company, the Berlusconi family last week bought more shares in Mediaset, raising their stake to 38.3 percent from 35 previously.

Vivendi executive board chief Arnaud de Puyfontaine denied that his company's intentions were aggressive, saying he had met Mediaset chairman Pier Silvio Berlusconi, the son of the former prime minister.

"This is not an escalation by the French aiming to conquer an Italian crown jewel," he told daily Corriere della Sera in an interview published at the weekend.

But analysts said that relations between Vivendi and Mediaset are clearly unfriendly, after tensions erupted over Vivendi dropping a plan to take over Mediaset's Premium pay-TV channel.

"A new game is beginning and it's getting more brutal," said one source close to the matter after Vivendi's surprise purchase of its current stake.

Late Monday, Fininvest called Vivendi's announcement part of a "very aggressive strategy". In a statement Fininvest said that Vivendi every action confirmed "all the irregularities and serious violations that Fininvest has highlighted".

Fininvest's current legal action would be followed by further criminal, civil and administrative proceedings, it said.

Vivendi's charge on Mediaset is being led by supervisory board chairman Bollore, an experienced corporate raider, who has said he hopes to create a southern European media behemoth. Analysts said this could possibly also involve Telecom Italia in which it holds more than 24 percent.

They said Vivendi may be aiming for a seat on the board of Mediaset to force the Italian company's cooperation, although Vivendi said last week that it was "too early" to talk about a director's seat.

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Muslim Global: Shares in Berlusconi firm Mediaset jump as Vivendi eyes big stake
Shares in Berlusconi firm Mediaset jump as Vivendi eyes big stake
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