Telecom Italia’s TV unit attracts suitors

News Corp., Hutchison Whampoa may bid

ROME — Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. and Hong Kong-based Hutchison Whampoa have surfaced as potential bidders for Telecom Italia Media’s TV unit, Italy’s third terrestrial TV player, comprising generalist stations LA7 and MTV Italy.

Meanwhile, Mediaset on Tuesday said it would not bid, after Telecom Italia Media shares rose more than 13% on the Milan bourse Monday on reports of interest from the Silvio Berlusconi-controlled TV unit and other international players.

Murdoch satcaster Sky Italia is also down playing its interest, saying it examined Telecom Italia Media’s “information memorandum” to gain more information about a competitor. Besides being Italy’s top pay TV player, Sky also operates free-to-air channel Cielo.

Hutchison Whampoa, owner of cellphone operator 3 Italia, is interested in Telecom Italia Media’s two assets — its TV channels and its extensive digital bandwidth, being sold separately — which would boost its telephone transmission capacity, according to Italian financial daily Il Sole 24 Ore.

Citicorp and Italo Merchant bank Mediobanca, which are handling the sale, have set Sept. 24 as the deadline for the first non-binding offers.

Other potential bidders for the TV stations include Discovery Channel and smaller Italian media group Cairo Communications, which handles Telecom Italia Media’s advertising sales.

LA7 has a 4% average share of Italy’s national audience.

The TV unit has a market value of about €240 million ($315 million) and net debt of $261 million.

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