Italy has eye on Mediaset move

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Italy's competition watchdog said Monday that it will likely open an investigation into any Mediaset bid for German broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 should the company move forward on that front.

Mediaset, which is controlled by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, said Friday it is considering a bid for the broadcaster, which is controlled by an investment consortium led by Haim Saban. Other companies believed to be interested in the company include private equity groups Permira and KKR as well as pan-European broadcaster SBS.

Time Warner also has been tabbed as a potential ProSiebenSat.1 suitor, but TW boss Richard Parsons played down the takeover rumors Monday.

"We know the company. We took a close look at ProSiebenSat.1 when it first came on the market," Parsons said in a Monday interview in German business daily Handelsblatt. "We'll take another look at it but, at the moment, (a buyout) is unlikely."

Interest from Mediaset comes as the Italian government is taking steps to introduce more competition into the TV sector, which is dominated by Mediaset and state broadcaster RAI. Additionally, Berlusconi has been ordered to stand trial on corruption charges.

Though Italy's antitrust regulator said the deal might not raise competition concerns on a European level, an acquisition of ProSiebenSat.1 could strengthen Mediaset enough that such concerns would be raised in Italy.

"We would investigate this possible deal, yes," an official with the antitrust authority said in an interview. "If it strengthens one company too much, then certain steps will have to be taken."

The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, would not speculate on the steps that might be taken.

Scott Roxborough in Cologne, Germany contributed to this report.
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