Paybox has 3.6 million subs and is worth $6.8 bil

Less than three years after launching Sky Italia, Rupert Murdoch is eyeing an IPO of News Corp.’s budding Italo satcaster.

Morgan Stanley has completed a preliminary evaluation of Sky Italia for Murdoch as a first step toward flotation on the Milan bourse, valuing the monopoly paybox, which has 3.6 million subscribers, at E5.79 billion ($6.8 billion).

That’s close to half the value of Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset — the country’s top commercial broadcast group — which is publicly listed in Milan.

No date has been set for the IPO, which the spokesman said was not imminent.

News Corp. recently reported a second-quarter operating loss of $53 million for Sky Italia on revenues up 14%.

Paybox expects to be profitable for the first time this year, thanks partly to an expected surge in subs attracted by summer’s soccer World Cup tournament, to which Sky Italia holds exclusive rights.

Like satcaster BSkyB, its older, bigger, publicly listed British cousin, Sky Italia is experimenting with high-definition TV, though plans to launch the service in Italy have not been announced.

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