Mediaset bids for remainder of Endemol

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ROME -- A group led by Italian broadcaster Mediaset on Wednesday officially launched a bid to acquire the remaining 25% of Dutch reality producer Endemol that it does not already own, offering €24.55 ($33.14) a share, a 12% discount to the price it paid for control of Endemol in May.

The group, which also includes Endemol founder John de Mol, is looking to gain complete control of the company from Spain's Telefonica, which bought the company from de Mol -- for what today would be worth $7.4 billion -- in 2000.

If the Mediaset-led group acquires the remaining 25% of the shares at the price it is offering, it will have succeeded in buying the same property for a total of €3.4 billion ($4.6 billion).

The deal brokered for the 75% stake officially closed Tuesday, automatically triggering a follow-up bid for the remaining shares.

The move was widely expected, but there had been speculation that Mediaset and its partners might offer a least €25 ($33.75) for the shares.

When the group bought the controlling stake in Endemol over four other bidders eight weeks ago, it paid €28.03 ($37.84) per share.

The offer at the current price will start July 5 and last until Aug. 3, after which the bidders could choose to withdraw the offer or bid more money for the remaining shares.

Mediaset shares closed slightly lower in heavy trading on the news and on news that it would pay €152 million ($205 million) to absorb film distribution company Medusa from the Silvio Berlusconi-owned holding company that is the leading shareholder in both firms. The shares ended the day at €7.66 ($10.34) in about double their normal volume. Brokers said the shares traded as much as 2% higher earlier in the session before cooling late in the day.

Both the Endemol deal and the switchover for Medusa are part of a wider Mediaset plan to boost its clout as a content producer and to bolster profits as advertising sales in Italy -- Mediaset's chief source of income -- contract.
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