Mediaset touts first-half ad sales gains

Shares recover losses from earlier this week

ROME -- Mediaset said Thursday that its ad sales inched higher in the first half of the year, assuaging investor fears and erasing most of the big losses the shares suffered earlier in the week.

Piersilvio Berlusconi, son of Mediaset founder and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and the broadcast giant's vice chairman, said that ad revenue was 2%-3% higher in the first six months of the year compared with the same period in 2007. The growth came despite weak economic growth, low consumer confidence and a year-to-year decrease in corporate ad spending.

The news was music to the ears of investors, who sent Mediaset shares 3.7% higher in a flurry of activity late in the session after they traded mostly flat before the younger Berlusconi's comments.

On the heels of a 0.9% gain Wednesday, the shares have recovered most of Tuesday's big 5.1% drop in just two sessions.

Berlusconi did not elaborate on the results. The company is set to report comprehensive first-half financial results later this month.