(Recasts, adds broker comment, source, shares)
MILAN, April 4 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
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)