DeAgostini weighs Endemol bid

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ROME -- Italian publisher DeAgostini said it is considering putting in a bid to acquire Dutch reality television producer Endemol, putting Italy's second-leading publisher on a collision course with Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset.

Mediaset, which has been weighing an offer for Endemol for months, said in January that Endemol had become too expensive, but backtracked last week to say it was interested again.

Berlusconi, billionaire media tycoon and Italy's former prime minister, also owns Mondadori, the only Italian publisher larger than DeAgostini, which was founded in 1901 and has spent most of its history focusing on the publishing business. In recent weeks, however, the company has taken steps that increase its weight as a important player in the television and film industry. The company bought complete control of Italian art house film distributor Mikado on Jan. 2, and a week later snapped up Italian TV production company Magnolia. DeAgostini is also a major shareholder in Spanish broadcaster Antena 3.

But an acquisition of Endemol would be DeAgostini's boldest and most dramatic move yet -- especially if it outbids Mediaset to pull off the deal. But DeAgostini officials say the company's rivalry with Mediaset is not a factor.

"The interest in Endemol comes from the fact that it seems to be a good fit for our company's strategy," a company spokesman said.

According to media reports, the 75% stake in Endemol owned by Spain's Telefonica could fetch anywhere between €2 billion ($2.6 billion) and €3 billion ($3.9 billion). When Mediaset said in January that it was no longer interested in Endemol, the share price indicated the company would be valued near the high end of that range, but prices appear to have settled since then.
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