February 1, 2020 / 2:29 PM / 18 days ago

Italian judge to rule on Mediaset's TV project as early as next week: sources

FILE PHOTO: The Mediaset tower is seen in Cologno Monzese neighbourhood Milan, Italy, April 7, 2016. REUTERS/Stefano Rellandini/File Photo

MILAN (Reuters) - An Italian judge is set to decide as early as next week on a request by French media group Vivendi (VIV.PA) to suspend a planned reorganization at Italian broadcaster Mediaset (MS.MI) , four legal sources said after a closed-door hearing on Saturday.

The judge did not provide a deadline for the decision but a ruling is expected in the coming days, the sources said.

Controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, Mediaset wants to merge its Italian and Spanish (TL5.MC) units into a Dutch entity, dubbed MediaforEurope (MFE).

But Vivendi, which is Mediaset’s second largest shareholder with a 29% stake, is fighting the project in courts across Europe, saying the governance structure of the new entity would strengthen Berlusconi’s grip on the company.

The Italian broadcaster wants to use the new entity to pursue tie-ups in Europe to take on competition from streaming apps such as Netflix (NFLX.O) and web giants like Google (GOOGL.O).

In an effort to push through the plan, Mediaset shareholders approved changes to MFE’s bylaws on Jan. 10, as suggested by the Milan court. However, Vivendi said the changes did not address its concerns.

Should the Italian judge rule in favor of Vivendi’s request, it could sink Mediaset efforts to press ahead with its project, which was already put on hold by a Spanish court in October.

Mediaset faces a March deadline to adopt its plan for the Dutch holding company, otherwise the decisions taken at a September shareholder meeting that approved the project will no longer be valid under Dutch law.

Reporting by Elvira Pollina, editing by Gavin Jones and Angus MacSwan

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