Italy's Mediaset, Benetton Selling the Space Cinema Exhibitor Chain
ROME – Italian television and cinema giant Mediaset confirmed Monday that along with partner 21 Investimenti, a subsidiary of fashion chain Benetton, it would look to sell The Space Cinema chain of cinemas.
The deal is the latest effort to raise cash from Mediaset -- which has suffered from falling ad revenue, slumping share prices, the country's overall economic malaise and lower political influence ever since founder and controlling shareholder Silvio Berlusconi stepped down as prime minister nearly a year ago.
The company is also shopping around its satellite Mediaset Premium broadcast service, while Berlusconi, one of Italy's richest citizens, is reported to be in a deal to sell part of his stake in the AC Milan professional soccer team to investors from the Middle East.
The three-year-old The Space Cinemas operates more than 350 screens nationally, controlling around 20 percent of local cinema ticket sales. It is the second-largest cinema chain in the country, following only Odeon-UCI, with around 425 screens.
But The Space Cinema has suffered from rising taxes and eroding ticket sales, which were down around 11 percent compared with 2011 levels as of the end of the third quarter, despite an uptick in September. The Space Cinemas is also hurt by a cutback in production from Mediaset subsidiary Medusa.
Mediaset officials confirmed reports that appeared in the financial daily Il Sole/24 Ore.
There is no estimate on how much The Space Cinemas, which are 49 percent-controlled by Mediaset and 51 percent by 21 Investimenti, would fetch.