A Spanish judge upheld the suspension of a planned corporate overhaul at Mediaset, in a blow to the ambitions of Italy’s top commercial broadcaster to pursue a pan-European growth plan which its second-largest shareholder Vivendi opposes.
Controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, last year Mediaset approved a merger between its Italian and Spanish units under a Dutch company called MediaforEurope.
Under Mediaset’s plan, the vehicle would act as platform for building alliances with peers and creating a continental TV champion able to take on competition from video streaming services like Netflix.
But Vivendi, the French group led by billionaire Vincent Bollore, launched a legal fight against the project, saying the governance structure of the new entity would give the Berlusconis too much power.
After a Spanish judge suspended the plan in October, Mediaset and its subsidiary approved some changes to the bylaws in a bid to unblock the plan.
But a request by the group to lift the precautionary suspension of the project was rejected on Thursday, a court document showed. Separately, a Dutch court last week temporarily halted the operation until Sept. 1.
Mediaset, which could appeal Thursday’s ruling, said in a statement it would stick to its cross-border growth plan through unspecified “new ways”.
A spokesman for Vivendi said the French company’s action was aimed at protecting the interest of all minority shareholders, adding that it remained ready to build a “sustainable relationship” with Mediaset.
Vivendi and Mediaset 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.
Vivendi went on to build a 29% stake in Mediaset, a move which the Italian broadcaster considers hostile.
A legal case has been ongoing ever since, while attempts to clinch a wider settlement have proven unsuccessful so far.