Mediaset plans shopping expedition

Berlusconi Jr. hopes low prices help purchases

MILAN — Mediaset, the private-broadcasting empire of Italy’s media-mogul Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, hopes to cash in on the recession by snapping up other firms while stock prices are low.

Berlusconi’s son and Mediaset vice president Pier Silvio made the upbeat noises about acquisitions on Wednesday, despite announcing a fall in 2008 profits the previous day.

Noting that falling values would help purchases, Berlusconi Jr. said, “We’re always looking for new opportunities.”

But Italo broadcast expert Alessandro Bai-Badino of Deutsche Bank said, big household names were not likely targets.

“We’ve heard a lot about Mediaset’s potential interest in big companies like ITV,” Bai-Badino said. “But they’re not looking for broadcasters or distribution platforms, they’re after medium-sized companies that can give them an advantage when the downturn is over, like companies such as Taodue and Medusa they’ve already bought.”

Mediaset also raised the prospect of expanding its Dutch production arm Endemol into emerging markets such as Asia, Latin America and Australia.

“This would make sense,” said Bai-Badino. “Endemol is supposed to be a global content producer — and there are gaps in these markets.”

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