Silvio Berlusconi's Fininvest Sells Stake in Mediaset

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Silvio Berlusconi

To head off piling debts, Fininvest has unloaded 92 million shares in Mediaset.

In a much-needed move to quell piling debts, Silvio Berlusconi’s Fininvest SpA company sold 92 million shares in Mediaset on Thursday after the stock hit a four-year market high at €4.10 per share.

The deal raised $431 million (€377 million), reducing the company’s ownership by 7.8 percent, according to Bloomberg. Fininvest remains the largest investor in Mediaset, with 33.4 percent of shares.

"The proceeds of the offering will be used by Fininvest among other things to continue to strengthen its financial and capital structure and help possible investments with a view to diversify its equity portfolio," the company said in a statement.

While debt continues to rise for Mediaset, profits are nowhere in sight. Mediobanca estimates revenues have fallen 12 percent in the last five years. Italy continues to face the longest recession since WWII, and ad sales have been particularly hard-hit for Mediaset.

The company paid €700 million for broadcasting rights to the UEFA Champions League for 2015-18 in an effort to lure customers to its new pay TV channel, Mediaset Premium. But it has yet to rival the more popular premium content offering Sky Italia.

Forbes estimates that Berlusconi’s family fortune has decreased by more than half from 2000, when it peaked at $12.8 billion. Fininvest posted a net loss of €428.4 million in 2013. The company continues to maintain shares in bank Mediolanum, publishing company Mandadori, and controls soccer team A.C. Milan, among other holdings.