Berlusconi's media conglom seeks to raise cash

ROME — Mediaset and its partner, 21 Investimenti, are poised to sell Italy’s largest local exhibition loop, The Space Cinema, in the latest of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s moves to raise cash at the ailing media conglom.

Sources have confirmed a report in Italo financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore, which comes just as Mediaset is also fielding offers from foreign investors for its Mediaset Premium pay TV operation and Berlusconi’s Fininvest is in talks with Qatari investors interested in his A.C. Milan soccer club.

The report says several buyers have expressed interest in The Space, in which Mediaset has a 49% stake, while 21 Investimenti, the holding company of fashion company Benetton, has 51%.

A spokesperson for The Space had no comment on Monday.

The Space operates 355 screens and accounts for roughly 20% of local theatrical grosses. It was established in 2009 following the joint purchase of the Warner Village circuit and its merger with Mediaset/Medusa’s screens.

Its main competitor in Italy is pan-European chain Odeon-UCI, owned by private equity fund Terra Firma. It is not known whether Terra Firma, which has 420 screens in Italy, is among prospective buyers of The Space.

The news comes as Italy’s box office take slumps 10% so far this year compared with 2011.

Mediaset’s Medusa, Italy’s top movie company, has scaled down production investment at least 20%.

The Space managing director Giuseppe Corrado recently lamented that Italy does not release summer blockbusters. Instead distribs hold back high-profile titles as soon as Italos hit the beach.

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