Telecom Italia Media sale heats up

MILAN Tue Dec 4, 2012 1:27pm EST

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MILAN (Reuters) - Two potential buyers submitted offers for Italian television broadcaster Telecom Italia Media (TCM.MI) on Tuesday after majority owner Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) extended the deadline on bidding for its 77 percent stake.

Bids for Telecom Italia Media, 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.

Italian fund manager Equinox has presented an offer with fellow private equity investor Clessidra for Italy's third-largest commercial broadcaster, Equinox's head Salvatore Mancuso said on Tuesday. He provided no further details.

In addition media company Cairo Communication (CAI.MI) has also made an offer, a source familiar with the situation said. Cairo's advertising sales unit sells slots on Telecom Italia Media's television channels under a deal which runs to 2014.

Telecom Italia has said it is open to bids for its whole interest but will also consider selling the cash-burning TV channels separately from the profitable broadcast network operator, which leases bandwidth to carry its own and rival channels.

Shares in Telecom Italia Media last traded at 0.166 euros, giving the company a market value of 241 million euros ($315 million). Telecom Italia values the 77 percent stake on its books at 176 million euros.

The sale might be a drop in the ocean for Telecom Italia in trying to cut its 30 billion euros of debt but would give a buyer an opportunity to shake up the status quo in an Italian media market long dominated by former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's Mediaset (MS.MI).

However, a buyer also faces the recession and increasing competition in Italy's TV market.

Telecom Italia, advised on the sale by Mediobanca (MDBI.MI) and Citigroup (C.N), is due to hold its next board meeting on Thursday, when it is expected to address a host of important strategy issues.

It was not clear if Hutchison Whampoa's (0013.HK) Italian telecoms operator 3 Italia and U.S. TV group Discovery Communications (DISCA.O) have decided to go ahead with bids for the media company after making non-binding offers earlier this year.

Meanwhile Tunisian media entrepreneur Tarak Ben Ammar said on Monday he would announce on Wednesday the identity of a new international partner to invest in the media sector in Italy. Italian newspaper reports speculated that the 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. ($1=0.7642 euros)

(Additional Reporting by Stephen Jewkes and Gianluca Semeraro; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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