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Berlusconi mulls bid for German TV giant

Mediaset to decide Tuesday on ProSiebenSat.1 offer

Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi may be looking to replace Haim Saban as owner of ProSiebenSat 1, Germany’s biggest commercial broadcasting group.

A spokesman for Berlusconi’s Mediaset confirmed to Daily Variety that Italy’s top private TV player will “evaluate making a non-binding bid” during a board meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 7).

The Mediaset spokesman added that cash-rich Mediaset had been invited to make a bid by Morgan Stanley, which is acting as advisor for ProSiebenSat 1.

“Of course we’re interested; it’s our core business,” said the Mediaset spokesman, “but it’s still very early in the game.”

According to Rome daily Il Messaggero, Mediaset has hired Citigroup as advisor on a bid for a 50.5% stake in ProSiebenSat.1, valued at Euros 5 billion ($6.4 billion).

On Friday (Nov. 3) shares in ProSiebenSat.1 leaped 4.4% at the opening of trade in Frankfurt before settling at Euros 23.40 ($29.86), up 1.83%. In Milan, Mediaset was up 1.1% at Euros 8.84 ($11.28).

Other potential ProSiebenSat.1 bidders are believed to include U.S. equity firms Texas Pacific Group and Blackstone Group, the U.K.’s Apax Partners, yank web NBC Universal, as well as several European broadcasters, among which are France’s TF1 and Spain’s Antena 3.

Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan are running the auction on behalf of German Media Partners — a private equity consortium led by Saban.

German Media Partners — which besides Saban includes Providence Equity Partners, Bain Capital, Hellman & Friedman, Thomas H. Lee Partners, Quadrangle Group, Alpine Equity Partners and Putnam Investments — owns the 50.5% stake and also 88% of the voting shares.

Earlier this year German Media Partners came close to selling the broadcaster to publishing group Axel Springer for $3.2 billion, but Germany’s antitrust watchdog torpedoed that deal.

It’s not the first time Berlusconi has eyed the Munich-based media company.

Mediaset was a minority shareholder in ProSiebenSat.1’s former parent Kirch Media before that company went bankrupt in 2002. Mediaset had considered taking a stake in ProSiebenSat.1 at the time, but faced loud opposition by German government leaders dead set against the then Italian prime minister expanding his power onto Germany’s airwaves.

Although Berlusconi is now out of office, a bid by Mediaset would likely face plenty of hostility in Germany, not to mention monopoly concerns by European regulatory watchdogs.

ProSiebenSat 1 operates five free-to-air channels (ProSieben, Sat 1, Kabel 1, N24 and 9Live) and recently launched two pay TV outlets, a video-on-demand service and took a stake in German YouTube clone MyVideo.

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