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Italy, Vivendi seek entente on single network, despite Mediaset tussle -sources

Wed 25th November, 2020 5:22pm
* Rome plans to merge TIM's landline grid with Open Fiber
    * Government officials, Vivendi in talks over TIM's new
    * Italian, French finance ministers to meet on Thursday 

    By Giuseppe Fonte and Elvira Pollina
    ROME, Nov 25 (Reuters) - Italy and France's Vivendi  VIV.PA 
are trying to work together on Rome's plan for a national
broadband network, easing tensions after the media giant
complained about an Italian bill potentially curbing its
business in the country, sources said.
    The sources said government officials also reassured the
French group that Rome will not try to dilute its presence on
the board of former phone monopoly Telecom Italia (TIM)
 TLIT.MI  when a slate backed by state lender CDP is presented
next year.
    The slate is expected to be presented by the outgoing board,
the two sources close to the matter added.
    Italy wants TIM, whose main shareholders are Vivendi and CDP
with respective stakes of 24% and 10%, to merge its landline
grid with state-backed Open Fiber, paving the way for a single
ultra-fast broadband infrastructure.
    Given the size of its stake, Vivendi's support could be
crucial in approving any decision of an extraordinary nature at
TIM's shareholder meeting.
    Vivendi is a key player in Italy as it also owns 29% of top
commercial broadcaster Mediaset  MS.MI , controlled by the
family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. The
two groups are embroiled in a legal battle stemming from a
failed pay TV sale in 2016.*:nL8N2I522A
    The French group complained to the European Commission this
month after Rome presented a draft law that would require
Italy's communications watchdog to investigate companies
operating in the telecoms and media sectors.*:nL8N2I6278
    The bill, if approved, would buy Mediaset time in its
dispute with Vivendi and sources have said that Vivendi, in
retaliation, might oppose Rome's single network plan.*:nL8N2I23YT
    However, Italian Economy Minister Roberto Gualtieri spoke
with Vivendi chief Arnaud de Puyfontaine by telephone on Nov 16
to seek clarification and ease tensions.*:nL8N2I6278
    Representatives of the government and Vivendi then continued
talks, sources said.
    One of the sources said Vivendi would continue to oppose the
draft law, but had agreed to talks over cooperation in the
single network project and TIM's board renewal.
    The Treasury, TIM and Vivendi all declined to comment.
    A meeting between Gualtieri and French Finance Minister
Bruno Le Maire is scheduled for Thursday morning in Rome.

 (Editing by Gavin Jones; Editing by Kirsten Donovan)
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