Berlusconis MFE-Mediaset Completes Spanish Takeover in First Step of Pan-European Plan

Top Italian private broadcaster Mediaset, which is being rebranded as MediaForEurope (MFE), has completed the takeover bid of its Spanish TV subsidiary Mediaset Espana in what is being touted as the first step “towards the creation of a pan-European group,” the company has announced.

After launching a cash-and-shares takeover bid for the 44% stake of its Spanish unit that it did not own, the broadcaster controlled by former Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s family now holds a roughly 83% stake in Mediaset Espana, which is Spain’s leading private free-TV player. Mediaset did not disclose the total cost of the takeover which has been valued at roughly €780 million ($791 million).

The stated plan now is to look into a merger of Mediaset’s Spanish unit with its Milan-based Italian core company. More importantly, moves are said to be underway for the Spanish operation to spearhead the MFE consolidation effort into other European countries.

“Today’s success is only the first step in the path towards the creation of a pan-European group made up of national TV companies focused on local content production and pan-European technological and commercial platforms,” MFE said in a statement late on Thursday.

The long-gestating MFE strategy devised by MFE CEO Pier Silvio Berlusconi, who is Silvio Berlusconi’s son, is to gain scale while establishing cross border ties between different MFE-controlled companies in Europe.

“We want each broadcaster to have a national identity, but if you want to counter the onslaught of the streaming giants you have to grow,” Pier Silvio Berlusconi said last week during a Mediaset upfront in Italy. The goal, therefore, is to operate “a platform with enough firepower to compete with Amazon and Google for advertising deals,” he added.

MFE finance chief Marco Giordani recently said the company will be looking at Channel 4 when, and if, the British broadcaster is put on the block.

More concretely, MFE has set its sights on German broadcasting giant ProSiebenSat.1, which is Europe’s second-largest TV group in terms of TV home penetration, in which they have been buying up shares. ProSieben operates free-to-air and pay-TV channels in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. 

MFE now holds more than 25% of ProSieben and have been bidding to increase their stake in what is widely believed to be an attempt to gain control. But the German giant’s top management are pushing back. In May ProSieben chief Rainer Beaujean told the Financial Times that he would always be open to “smart ideas” but that Berlusconi’s group had yet to come to him to discuss the merits of cross-border consolidation.

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