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MILAN, April 4 (Reuters) - Italian broadcaster Mediaset has raised 284 million euros ($390 million) from the sale of a minority stake in its EI Towers unit, in a move that could help it fund the purchase of lucrative soccer rights to boost its core business.
Mediaset, controlled by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, said in a statement on Friday it had placed 25 percent of the shares in EI Towers at 40.15 euros each, a discount of almost 6 percent to Thursday's closing price.
Mediaset previously held 65 percent of the company through its subsidiary Elettronica Industriale.
Brokerage ICBPI said the deal could generate a capital gain for Mediaset of between 160 million euros and 180 million. "The increase in financial flexibility could be linked to the imminent tender bid for the TV rights to (Italy's) Serie A 2015-18 soccer season," it said.
Italy's biggest TV broadcaster, which makes most of its turnover by selling advertising space, has seen its profits hit in recent years by the impact of the economic crisis on advertising.
Prospects the group could sell a stake in Italian pay-TV business Mediaset Premium faded in March when its CFO Marco Giordani said it was not studying any sale.
A financial source said a third of the EI Towers offer had been snapped up by U.S. investors, while the remainder was split between UK and Italian investors. "It's a sizable stake and the operation went very well," the source said.
The sale, conducted through an accelerated bookbuilding process, was run by Mediobanca.
At 0815 GMT, shares in Mediaset were up 1.5 percent, while EI Towers shares were down 5 percent.
Analysts estimate Mediaset could need up to 1 billion euros to secure television rights to Italy's Series A. The broadcaster has spent about 700 million euros already to buy rights for the European Champions League for 2015-2018. ($1 = 0.7291 Euros) (Reporting by Claudia Cristoferi, Stephen Jewkes and Isla Binnie; Editing by David Holmes)