(Reuters) - Mediaset MS.MI was ready to discuss ideas to develop its business with France's Vivendi, a top executive at the Italian broadcaster said on Wednesday, a sign that an end may be in sight to a dispute with its second largest investor.
Mediaset CEO Pier Silvio Berlusconi will hold a phone conversation with Vivendi boss Arnaud de Puyfontaine in the coming days, sources have said.
Mediaset and Vivendi have been at odds since 2016 when the French conglomerate pulled out of an 800 million euro agreement to buy Mediaset’s loss-making pay-TV unit.
Here is a timeline tracing the dispute.
April 2016 - Vivendi agrees to buy Mediaset’s Premium pay-TV business, billed as a major step in billionaire businessman Vincent Bollore’s plan to build a southern European content and video-on-demand powerhouse. The two companies agree to take a 3.5% stake in each other as part of the deal.
July 2016 - Vivendi backs away from the original deal, proposing an alternative that would give it a bigger direct stake in the broadcaster than initially agreed.
Vivendi says the main reason for the change is the unreliability of Mediaset Premium’s annual financial forecasts over the 2016-2018 period.
The deal falls apart as Mediaset rejects the new proposal by Vivendi and announces legal action against the French group.
Vivendi builds up a 28.8% stake in Mediaset over the month in a move condemned by the Italian broadcaster.
Italy's communication regulator orders Vivendi, which is also the top shareholder in Telecom Italia TLIT.MI, to cut its stake in either the telecoms group or Mediaset within a year to comply with rules designed to prevent a concentration of power.
Vivendi transfers 19.19% of its shareholding in Mediaset to a trust to comply with the April 2017 ruling by the Italian communications regulator.
The legal battle between the two companies continues on multiple fronts, including a 3 billion euro damage request by Mediaset over the failed pay-TV deal and repeated complaints by Vivendi about not being allowed to exercise its voting rights at Mediaset shareholder meetings.
Mediaset shareholders back a plan, unveiled in June, to create a pan-European media group under a new Dutch holding, fending off opposition from Vivendi.
Under the plan, both Mediaset and its Spanish unit will be merged into a Dutch company dubbed MediaForEurope (MFE).
Vivendi, which says the new structure tightens the grip of Fininvest on the group, challenges the plan in court both in Spain and in Italy.
Mediaset raises its stake in German rival ProSiebensat.1 PSMGn.DE to 15.1% as it presses ahead with plans to create a pan-European TV platform.
Mediaset and Vivendi fail to reach an out of the court agreement to settle their dispute, including the spat over Mediaset pan-European TV plan.
Mediaset increases its overall potential stake in ProSieben to 24.2%.
A Spanish judge backs Vivendi and upholds the suspension of Mediaset’s pan-European-plan.
Mediaset says it is withdrawing plans to restructure under a Dutch holding company but adds its strategy remained valid and it would seek alternatives.
Vivendi asks to meet top executives at Mediaset to discuss a deal to end its long-running row. Mediaset said any potential deal would have to include compensation.
The EU’s Court of Justice rules that the Italian law that forced Vivendi to forfeit two thirds of its stake in Mediaset violates the bloc’s rules, helping it regain voting rights for its full 29% stake in Mediaset.
The ruling brings an immediate response from Mediaset which said it could now consider its own investments in the telecoms sector.
Editing by Keith Weir
Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.