L’Espresso perks up, buys Italo net Rete A

Station covers 80% of nation's households

MILAN — Italo multimedia group L’Espresso has entered the TV arena, buying TV station Rete A for e115 million ($154 million) on Wednesday.

Rete A, one of the 14 Italian analog TV stations allowed to broadcast nationally, covers about 80% of Italy’s households. It holds a license for digital terrestrial transmission.

Founded in 1976 by Milanese publisher Alberto Peruzzo, Rete A has 7 million viewers, mainly youth. It focused on teleshopping and news before turning to music in 1997, when it signed an agreement with MTV to air its programming in Italy. After the MTV deal ended in 2000, Rete A remained a music station and in 2002 launched All Music, competing against former ally MTV.

L’Espresso, controlled by Carlo De Benedetti, one of Italo media mogul and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s business and political rivals, owns many publications, including daily La Repubblica, and is already dominant in youth radio.

L’Espresso wants to double Rete A’s $26.7 million revenues over the next three years and triple its operating margin to 30%.

The group said the acquisition will be financed with part of the proceeds from its recently issued $400 million bond.

L’Espresso shares closed 1.5% up on Milan’s stock market.

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