Mediaset sees profit upswing

Italo TV giant posts 14.5% gain

MILAN — Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset, which controls Italy’s three largest commercial TV channels and Europe’s largest TV ad broker, Tuesday reported a sharp increase in pretax profits during the first half of the year. It also reported a minor reshuffle on its board.

Just a few days since the company’s annual general meeting in Monte Carlo — an event which celebrated the growing role of Berlusconi’s eldest daughter Marina — the Milan-based company said that pretax profits rose 14.5% to $382 million in the six months to June 1998 from a year earlier. Revenues were up 11.3% to $1.16 billion.

The company confirmed that its debt was totally discharged. At the end of June, the group had a cash flow of $280 million despite a big dividend paid to shareholders earlier in the year.

Mediaset said that Spain’s TeleCinco, in which Mediaset has a 25% stake, posted a 39% increase in net earnings to $52 million on revenues of $275 million in the same period.

The once-troubled Spanish station was saved from bankruptcy by Berlusconi’s protege, Maurizio Carlotti, who was recently appointed Mediaset’s CEO after four years in Spain.

Mediaset said two directors have left the company’s board, Carlo Bernasconi and Robert Hersov. Bernasconi tendered his resignation as Mediaset CEO in July to focus on the film production, distribution and exhibition unit Medusa, of which he is president. Hersov was expected to leave after Nethold, which he headed, was bought by Canal Plus. They have been replaced by Gina Nieri, director of general affairs, and Mauro Crippa, head of external relations.

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