Italy's Mediaset Returned to Profitability in 2013, But Says Ad Market Still Weak

Mediaset's tower in Milan

The company earned $12.5 million in profits last year, compared to a $332 million loss a year earlier.

ROME -- Italian television and cinema giant Mediaset on Tuesday said it returned to profitability in 2013, though it missed revenue estimates, while adding that early indications are that the country's advertising markets eroded further so far this year.

The results were mostly negative for the company controlled by former Italian prime minister and billionaire media tycoon Silvio Berlusconi, though the narrow return to profitability after reporting its first-ever full-year loss in 2012 was welcome.

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For the year as a whole, Mediaset reported €8.9 million ($12.5 million) in profits, compared to a €235 million ($332 million) loss a year earlier.

But income fell to €3.41 billion ($4.81 billion) compared to €3.44 billion ($4.85 billion) a year ago. The Italian media reported that analysts had been expecting a slight rise in income.

Profits came mostly from cutting costs, particularly for administration and on production, company officials said.

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Mediaset said that ad sales, which appeared to recover slightly in mid-2013, continued to slip early this year and that there were no indications so far that a meaningful recovery was underway, despite positive signals in other parts of the Italian economy.

Mediaset's shares rose 1.6 percent in moderate trading Tuesday, ahead of the release of the results. The shares have been among the biggest gainers on Milan's Italian Stock Exchange so far this year, gaining 25 percent over the first six weeks of the year and smashing through the 4-euro ($5.60) barrier for the first time since 2011. But they have slipped since then, closing trading Tuesday at €3.87 ($5.41), and analysts said they would likely lose more ground when trading opened Wednesday.

The Mediaset Group is Italy's largest diversified media company, controlling three television networks in Italy and one in Spain, plus various satellite channels and the Medusa film production and distribution house.

Twitter: @EricJLyman