FILE PHOTO: Vincent Bollore, Chairman of media group Vivendi attends the company's shareholders meeting in Paris
FILE PHOTO: Vincent Bollore, Chairman of media group Vivendi attends the company’s shareholders meeting in Paris, France, April 25, 2017. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

December 12, 2020

MILAN (Reuters) – Italian prosecutors have completed a probe into Vivendi’s Vincent Bollore and Arnaud De Puyfontaine for alleged market manipulation and obstruction of regulators, tax police said on Saturday.

According to Italian legal procedures the prosecutors are now expected to ask a judge to send Bollore and De Puyfontaine to trial. A lawyer representing the two men has not replied so far to an email request for comment sent by Reuters.

Milan prosecutors placed then Vivendi chairman Bollore and CEO De Puyfontaine under investigation in 2017 for alleged market manipulation over the French group’s stake building in Italian broadcaster Mediaset.

Fininvest, the holding company that controls Mediaset, had previously filed a complaint over Vivendi’s stake-building in the Italian broadcaster, accusing it of never intending to honour a deal to buy its pay-TV unit with the aim of driving down Mediaset’s share price to raid its stock.

Vivendi questioned the pay-TV unit’s profit forecasts when it ditched the pay TV deal and later bought up Mediaset shares to become its No. 2 investor behind the family of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

In 2017, Vivendi management said it had acquired its stake in Mediaset legally and transparently.

The U-turn on the pay-TV purchase by Vivendi, whose main investor is Bollore, prompted Mediaset to seek multi-billion euro damages.

A legal case has been ongoing ever since, while attempts to clinch a wider settlement and break the stalemate have so far proved unsuccessful.

In Italy, investigations do not imply guilt and do not necessarily mean charges will be laid.

Mediaset declined to comment, while Vivendi was not immediately available for a comment.

(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes, Emilio Parodi and Elvira Polline. Editing by Mark Potter)

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