News Corp to invest in Italo TV

MILAN – Mediaset president Fedele Confalonieri confirmed Wednesday that the Silvio Berlusconi-owned company is holding talks with global media baron Rupert Murdoch, but he denied that the discussion centered on a sale of a controlling stake in Italy’s largest commercial TV group.

“You can’t make television without international allies. It’s not strange that we talk with Murdoch. We talk with many people abroad. But, as far as we know, Murdoch is not interested in buying Mediaset, nor are we interested in selling it,” Confalonieri told reporters.

On Tuesday, the Italian financial daily, Il Sole 24 Ore, reported that representatives from Murdoch’s News Corp. arrived in Italy last week for talks on the acquisition of the 50.58% stake in Mediaset held by Berlusconi’s personal holding company Fininvest.

According to Mediaset’s president, who is Berlusconi’s closest associate, the Italian TV tycoon “does not want to sell, but to strengthen Mediaset. We must have continuous contacts with all the major international TV groups, or we’ll remain isolated,” he said.

Although Mediaset denied that a financial transaction is being discussed with Murdoch, Mediaset shares Wednesday were up 1.4% on the Milan stock market to 10,136 lire ($5.63) after a 7% rise Tuesday.

“I believe that Murdoch will probably buy a minority stake in Mediaset. But even a commercial agreement between Murdoch and Berlusconi with no capital outlays would be positive for both of them,” said Augusto Preta, president of Italmedia research center.

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