Seven investors rumored eyeing Fininvest stake

At least seven international investors have declared interest in taking a stake in Silvio Berlusconi’s media empire Fininvest, sources close to the Italian media conglom told the financial daily Sole 24 Ore March 23.

They include U.S. group Time Warner, France’s TF1 and Canal Plus, Germany’s Bertelsmann and the Kirch Group, Rupert Murdoch’s London-based company News Intl. and Dutch conglom Philips, the sources said.

Fininvest did not comment on the identities, and no confirmations came from abroad. A Bertelsmann rep denied any contact with Berlusconi’s group and Kirch did not comment.

June target

However, Fininvest financial director Ubaldo Livolsi confirmed the existence of “talks with important operators in the international industry,” where “there is great interest in Italy’s television.”

He also confirmed that these deals should take place by June, as the sale of minority stakes to foreign partners should not be affected by current political uncertainties in Italy.

According to Italian financial sources, Fininvest plans to sell to international partners about 30%-35% of Mediaset, the new unit grouping all of Fininvest’s audiovisual holdings. That includes three TV channels, theaters, film and TV production units, a programming library and the advertising sales arm, Publitalia. Mediaset is worth approximately 7 trillion-8 trillion lire ($4.1 billion-$4.7 billion), having posted a 1994 revenue of $1.9 billion, Livolsi said.

Each international partner is expected to take a 5%-10% stake of Mediaset, through a $1.2 billion capital increase.

After these investments, Fininvest aims to launch a further 35% to 40% of Mediaset on Italian and foreign stock markets.

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