Home shopping is where Mediaset's heart is

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ROME -- Italian broadcast giant Mediaset is staking out an expansion in the home shopping sector with a $120 million deal for control of media company Dmail in the works, a company spokesman said Monday.

The spokeman also said that other commercial agreements in the home shopping sector could be signed soon.

Dmail officials would only confirm that talks with Mediaset began before the holidays.

But a spokesman for Silvio Berlusconi-controlled Mediaset said that talks with several home shopping vendors have begun, with most aimed at potential commercial cooperation agreements and at least one -- with Dmail -- that could lead to an acquisition.

It is not clear what Mediaset would do with Dmail's media and publishing operations if it were to take control of the company.

"It's still early but it is safe to say that Mediaset has an interest in the home shopping sector," the spokesman said in an interview.

Details of Mediaset's shopping ambitions first appeared in Monday's editions of the financial daily Il Sole/24 Ore.

The spokesman did not rule out the possibility that Mediaset could establish its own new home shopping channel but said that no move was being made in that direction at this point.     

Mediaset already owns a home shopping channel called Media Shopping, but acquiring Dmail and cooperation agreements with smaller rivals could give it as strong a hold on the sector as it has on the private broadcasting sector.

It is not clear if such a concentration in the sector would attract attention from the country's antitrust regulator, which has been aggressive in encouraging more competition in the television sector.

Mediaset shares spiked on the news Monday, jumping as much as 2.1% at one point before settling down and closing 0.4% higher in heavy trading Monday.     

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