De Agostini in running for Endemol

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ROME -- Italian publisher De Agostini on Friday threw its hat in the ring in the battle to control reality television producer Endemol, confirming Italian news reports that the company would bid for control of the Dutch company, possibly along with U.S.-based Citibank.

If a De Agostini-led bid does pan out, the company will be the second Italian bidder for Endemol, which is controlled by Spain's Telefonica. Earlier in March, Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset said it was preparing a joint bid for Endemol with John De Mol, the company's founder who sold his stake to Telefonica.

The Milan daily Il Sole/24 Ore, which reported part of the story in its Friday editions, said that Telefonica had set a Friday deadline for bids and invited about 20 companies to participate, including both Italian groups.

That list is expected to be whittled down by mid-April,
with a winner selected in May.

De Agostini, a leader in the Italian publishing sector since its founding in 1901, is a relative newcomer to the film and television sector in Italy. On Jan. 2, the company bought complete control of Italian art house film distributor Mikado. A week later, the company bought Italian television production company Magnolia.

According to media reports, Telefonica's 75% stake in Endemol could fetch €2 billion-€3 billion ($2.6 billion-$3.9 billion).
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