Berlusconi takes Fininvest publishing division public

Silvio Berlusconi swore he’d never do it. But after months of preparations, a public offering of Fininvest’s huge publishing wing is set to begin today.

It concludes Sept. 15, when Silvio Berlusconi Editore will be quoted on the Milan stock exchange.

Meanwhile, his TV operation — including three webs, a program library and an advertising sales company with annual revenues of $ 2.5 billion — is being readied for a public offering early next year.

It’s a crucial strategic move for Fininvest, Europe’s second-largest media company.

Well-managed and profitable, Fininvest’s publishing division was a natural choice for a debut on the stock exchange. Basically what will happen is that Mondadori, Italy’s largest publisher, will be “swallowed” by SBE (which publishes mass-circulation weekly TV Sorrisi e Canzoni, Ciak movie magazine and family weekly Noi) through a stock swap during trading up until a Sept. 15 deadline. At that time, the Mondadori name disappears from the trading floor and the new, larger SBE will be quoted in its place.

According to the stock prospectus, the new company will have total revenues of $ 664 million, with an operating profit of $ 48 million and a $ 24 million net profit. Only 8% of Mondadori’s total stock is floated on the exchange, while 40%-50% of stock in the new company will be up for sale.

Fininvest expects to raise $ 350 million-$ 400 million, but is reticent on whether the capital will be used primarily to pay back debt or for expansion.

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