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Italo TMC reborn as news channel post-Pelliccioli

SPG loses $65 million in year's first half

MILAN — Italy’s financially beleaguered net TeleMonteCarlo (TMC) is to relaunch as a news channel to save cash amid controversy surrounding the abrupt resignation Tuesday of Lorenzo Pelliccioli, prexy of parent company Seat Pagine Gialle (SPG).

SPG, the multimedia unit of giant telco Telecom Italia, bought TMC last year from Vittorio Cecchi Gori and had planned to bow it as renamed youth-skewed web La7 on Monday. It kicked cash, energy and new talent into the web, including planned investment of what was then the equivalent of $140 million in programming.

But in August, Italy’s cable and tire giant Olivetti and ally the textile group Benetton launched a hostile takeover of Telecom Italia, including La7.

The new shareholders, burdened by a huge debt, said Tuesday that SPG lost $65 million in the first half of the year compared with a small profit a year earlier. The loss was due also to the acquisition of TMC-La7, which will become a news channel to cut costs, execs said on Tuesday. La7 director Roberto Giovalli said he was surprised by the decision. Pelliccioli resigned with the revelation of the SPG loss.

Before Olivetti acquired the channel, La7 chief exec Ernesto Mauri said in July, “We plan to increase our audience share from 2% to 5% and reach $280 million in advertising revenues within a short period of time.” But now these targets might be harder to reach. In the meantime, rumors are circulating in the media and financial circles about a new sale of TMC.

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