MILAN Italian private equity fund Clessidra has made an offer to buy Italy's third-largest commercial broadcaster Telecom Italia Media TCM.MI, two sources said on Monday.
"They are in the race," a financial source told Reuters, asking not to be identified.
Italy's biggest telecoms group Telecom Italia (TLIT.MI) put Telecom Italia Media up for sale in May to help reduce its net debt of more than 30 billion euros ($39.21 billion).
A second source with knowledge of the situation confirmed that Clessidra had made an offer.
Clessidra declined to comment while Telecom Italia was not immediately reachable for comment.
Telecom Italia, which owns 77 percent of the Telecom Italia Media, had set a Monday deadline to submit binding offers.
Other potential bidders were Hutchison Whampoa's 0013.HK Italian telecoms operator, U.S. TV group Discovery Communications (DISCA.O) and advertising firm Cairo Communication (CAI.MI).
A source familiar with the situation said Cairo could make an offer "in the coming hours."
It was not immediately clear whether the other two potential bidders had made an offer.
Separately Tunisian media businessman Tarak Ben Ammar said, in an invitation to a press conference, he would announce on Wednesday he had found an international partner, alongside partner TF1, ready to invest in the media sector in Italy.
The investment will represent the beginning of a series of strategic buys in Italy, the invitation said, without giving details.
In the past there was speculation Ben Ammar might be interested in looking at Telecom Italia Media.
Shares in Telecom Italia Media rose more than 2 percent on Monday, on expectations that parent Telecom Italia could be closer to a sale of its unit.
Telecom Italia, which values its 77 percent stake in the Telecom Italia Media at 176 million euros, wants to sell the business by the end of the year.
"There is speculative trading on the stock ahead of a decision," a Milan trader said. "In general, a sale would be a positive news."
Recession and rising competition in Italy's TV market have complicated the sale and could be reflected in the buyers' proposed offers.
This could disappoint Telecom Italia, which is selling off assets to help reduce its debt burden.
The Italian telecoms company, advised on the sale by Mediobanca (MDBI.MI) and Citigroup (C.N), will hold a board meeting on Thursday, in which it could examine the offers for its media arm along with other important strategy issues.
A banker who had looked at the Telecom Italia Media file told Reuters that if a deal happened to fall through because bids were too low, the company might shop around for alternatives including a partnership with a foreign player. ($1 = 0.7650 euros)
(Additional reporting by Lisa Jucca, Stephen Jewkes and Valentina Caiazzo; Editing by Jane Merriman, Richard Chang and Lisa Shumaker)