Endemol sale seen by year end

Stock appreciated 8.95% following report

The long-mooted sale of Euro TV giant Endemol by Spanish owner Telefonica finally appears to be gaining some traction.

Its outcome is less clear.

Endemol stock appreciated 8.95% Friday on the Amsterdam Stock Exchange following a Dutch press report that Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset and Endemol’s former founder, John de Mol, were teaming to buy the creator of “Big Brother” and “Operacion Triunfo.”

Endemol has a 22% free float on the Dutch bourse.

Later Friday, a Mediaset spokeswoman rebuffed reports, saying there were “no developments. Endemol is too big for Mediaset.”

But Telefonica chairman Cesar Alierta confirmed Saturday to the Financial Times that Telefonica expects to sell off Endemol by the end of this year. It was the first time Telefonica has hazarded a time frame for an Endemol divestment.

Ever since 2002, when Telefonica began to offload its media interests as noncore assets, Telefonica’s take on Endemol has been that it is in no hurry to sell it and would wait until media stocks recovered. But Telefonica needs to reduce debt following its $33 billion cash acquisition of U.K. mobile phone operator O2 last year.

According to Alierta, Telefonica has yet to receive a firm offer for Endemol but had attracted interest from private equity funds, media companies and Endemol’s own management. The most probable buyer would be a media company, he added.

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