Universal denies deal with Mediaset, Quinta

'Wait for May 21,' spokesman says

CANNES -- Universal Studios has dismissed reports as "nonsensical" that Italian broadcaster Mediaset and Paris-based Quinta Communications are on the verge of a blockbuster deal that could involve a takeover of studio.

The reported mega-deal -- which would reunite long-time allies Silvio Berlusconi from Mediaset and Quinta's Tarak Ben Ammar -- will be announced Wednesday in Cannes, according to the Milan-based financial daily Finanza Mercati.

But Universal Studios spokeswoman Cindy Gardner in Los Angeles said, "There is no truth to the story. It's nonsensical." A spokesman for parent company NBC Uni in New York also said the report was "not true."

Asked to confirm the deal, a spokesman for Mediaset would say only, "Wait for May 21."

And Ben Amar said, "Everything that was written is false. We are making an announcement on Wednesday but it has nothing to do with studios." He did not rule out that the announcement would involve American interests.

Such a move would fit into Mediaset's efforts to diversify away from its traditional television broadcasting base into a content producer. Last year, Berlusconi moved film producer and distributor Medusa under the Mediaset umbrella and acquired control of Dutch reality content producer Endemol.

In January, Mediaset announced a pair of four-year exclusive content deals with Universal and Warner Bros reported to be worth at least $600 million.

Mediaset shares closed down 1.4% in heavy trading in Wednesday's session, in part based on speculation about the Universal deal, and also due to a pair of downgrades from two Italian investment banks.

Carl DiOrio in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
comments powered by Disqus