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Italian court reserves decision over Vivendi stake in Mediaset

MILAN, Dec 16 (Reuters) - An Italian court has reserved a decision relating to French media group Vivendi’s voting stake in broadcaster Mediaset, two legal sources said on Wednesday.

Vivendi has been locked in a legal fight with Mediaset since walking away in 2016 from a deal to buy the Italian group’s pay-TV arm and building up a stake in Mediaset, which the broadcaster considers hostile.

The French company was forced to transfer two thirds of its voting rights in Mediaset into a trust after Italy’s communications regulator ruled in 2017 that Vivendi’s stakes in Mediaset and in Telecom Italia (TIM) ran counter to laws protecting media plurality.

Vivendi is TIM’s biggest shareholder with a 23.9% stake and Mediaset’s second-largest with a 28.8% holding although its voting rights in the broadcaster have been curbed to 10%.

Following a favourable ruling by the European Union’s top court, Vivendi has been seeking to regain voting rights for its full 29% stake in Mediaset, the broadcaster controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

This week the communications regulator opened an inquiry into Vivendi’s TIM and Mediaset stakes.

Legal sources said the investigation could delay an administrative court decision on Vivendi’s request to scrap restrictions on its Mediaset holding.

The case looking into Vivendi’s attempt to lift restrictions on its stake was discussed on Wednesday at a hearing by the administrative court of the Lazio region.

Mediaset asked the court to reject Vivendi’s request or to postpone any decision until after the communications regulator completes its investigation into Vivendi’s interests in Italy, the legal sources said.

The court usually decides on a postponement within days or, alternatively, comes up with a ruling on the case, a process that normally takes up to three weeks.

Mediaset declined to comment. Vivendi was not immediately available for comment. (Reporting by Elvira Pollina, Domenico Lusi. Editing by Jane Merriman)

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