September 17, 2012 / 10:30 AM / in 5 years

TI Media shares higher on Mediaset interest

* Mediaset among 10 companies interested in TI Media-source

* TI Media shares rise more than 11 percent

* Mediaset involvement likely to heat up political debate

(Adds details, shares)

MILAN, Sept 17 (Reuters) - Shares in Telecom Italia Media TCM.MI rose sharply on Monday on reports several companies had expressed an interest in buying the small Italian broadcaster, including sector leader Mediaset (MS.MI).

Any bid by dominant Mediaset, controlled by the family of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, would reignite a political debate over diversity of ownership in the country’s media ahead of a parliamentary election next year.

Mediaset, whose leadership in Italy’s advertising market has been challenged by new digital channels and could be endangered by the emergence of a strong competitor, would also likely face antitrust problems if it attempted an acquisition.

A source close to the matter said Mediaset and about nine other groups had expressed in interest in acquiring the TV company. Controlling shareholder Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) wants to sell the operation to help cut its debt.

A Mediaset spokesperson declined to comment.

Despite a recent rise in advertising sales, Telecom Italia Media, Italy’s third biggest free-to-air broadcaster is loss-making and needs substantial investment.

At 1011 GMT, Telecom Italia Media rose 11.5 percent to reach 0.185 euros, against a 1 percent fall in the Milan index.

Business newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore said on Sunday telecom group 3 Italia, owned by Hutchison Whampoa 0013.HK, was interested in acquiring the company’s two main assets - its television channels - La7 and MTV Italia - and its multiplex platform.

Italy’s Cairo Communications (CAI.MI) and Discovery Channel were interested in purchasing the group’s two television channels, while private equity fund Clessidra was interested in the whole group, the paper said.

Other interested parties included Spain’s Abertis (ABE.MC) and EI Towers (EIT.MI), a unit of Mediaset, Italian newspapers reported.

Telecom Italia Media has a market value of about 240 million euros ($315 million) and net debt of 200 million euros.

The deadline to present non-binding offers is Sept. 24.

($1 = 0.7606 euros)

(Reporting By Danilo Masoni and Claudia Cristoferi; Editing by Andrew Heavens)


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