Mediaset eyes ProSiebenSat1 acquisition


ROME -- Italian media giant Mediaset, the country's largest private broadcaster, confirmed Friday that it is in talks to acquire ProSiebenSat1.

Sources familiar with the negotiations said that Mediaset is expected to submit a formal bid for ProSiebenSat1 in the coming weeks.

Haim Saban's Saban Capital Group, which controls a majority stake in ProSiebenSat1, has been shopping the German broadcaster around for several months. ProSiebenSat1 will announce its annual results Tuesday and is expected to show near-record growth

Mediaset officials declined to elaborate on media reports about the potential deal but did confirm that conversations on the subject were taking place.

The interest in the ProSiebenSat1 comes as Mediaset's controlling shareholder --media mogul and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi -- is beset by legal problems. Berlusconi, who was ousted from power by a razor-thin margin in April, was informed in late October that he will have to appear in court on charges of corruption (HR 10/31).

Berlusconi has denied wrongdoing in that case, which he says are politically motivated.

Mediaset and now-defunct KirchMedia were involved in several negotiations over 1999-2001, but those never yielded results and were dropped when Berlusconi became prime minister in June 2001.

Saban agreed last year to sell ProSiebenSat1 to German publishing giant Axel Springer for €23.58 a share. That deal fell apart after German media controllers threatened to veto it.

Now, with Germany's ad market on the rebound and ProSiebenSat1 gaining ground on local rival RTL, the asking price is believed to have climbed to about €30 ($38) a share.

Other companies believed to be eying ProSiebenSat1 include private equity groups Permira and KKR and pan-European broadcaster SBS.

Scott Roxborough in Cologne, Germany contributed to this report.