Mediaset confirms foreign interest for its pay TV business

MILAN, April 27 Sun Apr 27, 2014 8:28am EDT

MILAN, April 27 (Reuters) - Italian broadcaster Mediaset confirmed it had received expressions of interest from foreign players for its pay-TV business - though it gave no names - as media speculation grows a tie-up could be on the horizon.

In a statement late on Saturday, the company said the strategic value of Mediaset Premium had drawn interest from "various international operators for a possible partnership."

Last Thursday Mediaset denied it had sealed any deal after a press report said Qatari-owned Al Jazeera and Vivendi's Canal+ had reached an agreement to take a stake in Premium.

Italy's biggest TV broadcaster, controlled by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, makes most of its turnover by selling advertising space. It has seen profits hit in recent years by the economic crisis and is selling assets.

Earlier this month it raised 284 million euros by selling a minority stake in its TV towers unit in a move that could help it fund the purchase of lucrative soccer rights to boost its core business.

In its statement on Saturday Mediaset said recent reports regarding the value of the pay-TV unit were groundless.

Newspapers over the weekend cited two investment banks giving very different valuations for Mediaset Premium. One said it could be worth up to 800 million euros but another said it was not worth more than 300 million euros.

(Reporting by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Sophie Walker)