Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset Reports Net Profit Hike of 29% to $492.8 Million for 2010

Italian broadcast group said it would raise its annual dividend, but the reaction from investors was muted.

ROME -- Italian broadcaster Mediaset reported Wednesday that its net profit for 2010 rose 29% compared to 2009 and that it would raise its annual dividend, but the reaction from investors was muted.

The company, which is centerpiece of the media empire owned by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, also reported strong growth among Mediaset pay TV subscribers so far this year with growth of 300,000 active users compared to the end of last year, bringing the total to 4.2 million. But with just 1.9 million subscribers -- the remainder of the active users pay of access to individual programs -- Mediaset pay TV is still far behind the estimated 6 million Italian subscribers from News Corp. subsidiary Sky-Italia.

For 2010, Mediaset reported net profits of €352.2 million ($492.8 million), up 29% compared to full-year 2009 profits. The company said the rise was due to a strengthening of the advertising markets both in Italy and in Spain, where Mediaset owns the Tele Cinco broadcaster. The return from cinema productions also rose, the company said.

In the wake of the strong profit statement, the company said it would raise its annual dividend to €0.35 per share ($0.49) compared to €0.22 ($0.31) per share previously.

Despite the positive news from the company, investors had a lukewarm response, with shares trading only around 1.6% higher at €4.56 ($6.38) as worries about Berlusconi’s legal problems continued to weigh on the company shares.