MILAN Telecom Italia SpA (TLIT.MI) has extended the deadline for bids for its loss-making TV unit, seeking the best offers in a sale designed to cut its debts and which could re-shape Italy's media landscape.
Bids for Telecom Italia Media SpA TCM.MI, which owns Italy's La7 and MTV channels, had been due on Monday but were extended by a day, a person familiar with the matter said.
"They agreed on having some extra hours," the person said.
Telecom Italia Media has a market value of 242 million euros, making Telecom Italia's 77 percent stake worth 187 million. Telecom Italia values the stake on its books at 176 million euros.
The sale could be an important step for Telecom Italia in cutting its 30 billion euro debt burden and could give any buyer an opportunity to shake up the status quo in a media market long dominated by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset (MS.MI).
Two sources said on Monday that Italian private equity fund Clessidra had made an offer for Telecom Italia Media but gave no indication of its value.
Previously, sources told Reuters that Clessidra had valued Telecom Italia Media below both its stock market price and its value on Telecom Italia's books.
Cairo Communication (CAI.MI) also may make on offer, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Monday.
The Italian telecoms company, advised on the sale by Mediobanca (MDBI.MI) and Citigroup (C.N), will hold a board meeting on Thursday, at which it could examine offers for its media arm along with other important strategy issues.
A recession and rising competition in Italy's TV market have complicated the sale and could be reflected in any offers. This could disappoint Telecom Italia in its efforts to reduce its debts.
At 9 a.m. EDT, Telecom Italia Media stock was down 1.1 percent at 0.1651 euros after opening up 1.5 percent.
It was not clear if Hutchison Whampoa's 0013.HK Italian telecoms operator and U.S. TV group Discovery Communications (DISCA.O) - who made non-binding offers earlier this year - had decided to go ahead.
Tunisian media executive Tarak Ben Ammar said he would announce on Wednesday he had found an international partner, alongside partner TF1 (TFFP.PA), ready to invest in the media sector in Italy. Italian press reports speculated that the third investor could be the sovereign wealth fund of either Qatar or Abu Dhabi.
Ben Ammar, a former business partner of Berlusconi who sat on Mediaset's board from 1997 to 2002, is on the board of Mediobanca. He also sits on the board of Telecom Italia.
(Editing by David Holmes)