Italy's Mediaset predicts difficult 2009

Profits for 2008 slipped 9.4% over 2007 to $497 mil

ROME -- Italian broadcast giant Mediaset said Wednesday that ad revenue for the first two months of the year slipped 12% compared with the same period in 2008, indicating that the erosion in ad sales that plagued the company last year have not abated.

The news came out in the wake of the release of financial results for all of 2008, which were posted after the close of trading Tuesday.

The company reported that profits for the full year slipped 9.4% compared with 2007, to €459 million ($497 million). The company said it will slash its dividend, and predicted a "difficult" year for 2009 as a whole.

But the company did offer a glimmer of hope, predicting that the Italian ad market will begin start recover by the end of 2009, while chairman Pier Silvio Berlusconi said the company is on the lookout for acquisition targets amid European rivals with beaten down stock prices.

Mediaset's stock price rose nearly 4% after release of the results, as analysts said the company did a good job keeping costs low in a difficult environment.

Mediaset is controlled by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.