June 1, 2018 / 9:10 AM / a year ago

Billionaire Bollore says Vivendi will keep its investments in Italy

PUTEAUX, France (Reuters) - Billionaire Vincent Bollore said that Vivendi (VIV.PA), the media group he controls, will keep its investments in Italy, following several setbacks it had experienced in the country.

FILE PHOTO: Vincent Bollore, Chairman of the Supervisory Board of media group Vivendi, attends the company's shareholders meeting in Paris, France, April 19, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau/File Photo

Vivendi has vowed to build a southern European media powerhouse through partnerships and via a spree of acquisitions in Italy, including taking up stakes in Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) and broadcasting group Mediaset (MS.MI).

The Paris-based group recently lost control over the board of the former Telecom Italia monopoly, in which Vivendi has a stake of around 24 percent, following a campaign by U.S. activist fund Elliott.

It has also threatened to call a new shareholders meeting to change the current board.

Vivendi is also the second-biggest shareholder in Mediaset (MS.MI), with which it had planned to form an alliance between their respective pay-TV groups. The two groups are in a legal dispute and the plans did not follow through.

“Italy is not a done deal yet,” Bollore said on Friday at the annual shareholder meeting of his conglomerate holding company.

“It’s a deal that will eventually bear fruit,” he added. “I continue to believe that what is going on there is interesting.”

Elliott pulled off a boardroom coup at Telecom Italia last month when it won a shareholder vote to appoint 10 independent directors - representing two-thirds of the boardroom seats - to the board, loosening Vivendi’s grip on the Italian company.

The activist fund accuses Vivendi of serving only its own interests, while the French media group says Elliott is looking only for short-term financial gains.

“For the moment, I’m not impressed by what they’re doing,” Bollore said, regarding Elliott’s moves on Telecom Italia.

“As long as they’re not dismantling, we’ll leave things be,” he added.

Vivendi has invested about 4 billion euros ($4.7 billion) in Telecom Italia, a sum it would not get back if it were to sell out of Telecom Italia now, according to several analysts.

“I am only interested in the stock price (of Telecom Italia),” said Bollore, ruling out the option of selling Vivendi’s stake at a loss.

Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Gwenaelle Barzic; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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