* Legal base shift agreed with Vivendi
* Mediaset wants to pursue M&A strategy
* Analysts warn move may be too late
MILAN, June 23 (Reuters) - Mediaset shareholders on
Wednesday backed a plan to make the Netherlands the legal base
of Italy's top commercial broadcaster, potentially paving the
way for cross-border deals needed to fight competition from
Like other traditional broadcasters, Mediaset is
trying to reshape its business, which has been hit by the growth
of web advertising giants such as Facebook and Google
Controlled by the family of former Prime Minister Silvio
Berlusconi through its Fininvest holding company, Mediaset has
long been targeting cross-border growth in Europe.
The company, which will retain its tax base in Italy, has
said the relocation will give its M&A strategy a neutral base
from which to pursue expansion plans abroad, while simplifying
its governance structure.
The plan, which initially envisaged a merger of Mediaset's
Italian and Spanish units under a Dutch holding, had stalled due
to a legal row with the company's second largest investor,
French Media giant Vivendi.
But in May, the two groups reached a settlement to end the
legal battle that had dragged on for the last five years,
effectively paralyzing Mediaset's strategy.. As
part of the deal, Vivendi has pledged to give its essential
backing to the relocation to the Netherlands.
Fininvest owns 44% of Mediaset and Vivendi 28.8%, a stake it
will reduce over time under the terms of the agreement.
Some 95.6% of the capital represented at the shareholders
meeting backed the redomiciliation plan which Mediaset aims to
finalize in September.
However, the long delay to Mediaset's ambition to grow
internationally may prove problematic, analysts said.
"Expanding abroad is mandatory for Mediaset to defend its
role in the playing field but it may be too late," said Augusto
Preta, founder of advisory firm ITmedia Consulting.
Mediaset, which controls Spanish broadcaster Mediaset Espana
, also has a stake in ProSiebenSat.1 Media
and has repeatedly tried to involve the German group in its
But ProsiebenSat.1 has shown little enthusiasm so far.
. Elsewhere, a planned tie-up between TV
broadcasters TF1 and M6 shows the French
market is heading for in-country consolidation.
In the five years to 2020, Mediaset's turnover has fallen by
28% to 2.6 billion euros ($3.11 billion), while Netflix
, which launched its services in Europe in 2016, last
year became the second largest broadcaster in the region in
terms of revenue, based on data and analytics company Ampere
For first time last year, online advertising spending in
Italy surpassed TV advertising revenue in Mediaset's key
domestic market, historically dominated by traditional
broadcasters, research firm Nielsen data showed.
"The European media sector must either find its path, or it
will get increasingly smaller and become irrelevant," Mediaset
finance chief Marco Giordani told Reuters last month. "All
shareholders in the media industry must think about that."
Mediaset shares, which gained some 38% since the start of
the year, fell 1.38% on Milan's bourse by 1240 GMT against a
0.3% drop in Italy's all-share index.
($1 = 0.8369 euros)
(Reporting by Elvira Pollina, additional reporting Giancarlo
Navach; editing by Valentina Za, Jane Merriman and David Evans)