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Mediaset set to offload Canal+ stake

Mediaset executive vice-president Piersilvio Berlusconi has given the strongest indication yet that his group will sell its 22% stake in Spain’s Canal+ to Telefónica ahead of Friday’s deadline, possibly as part of a wider strategic agreement with the Spanish telco.

Speaking to journalists at a presentation of the group’s autumn schedules, Berlusconi said that, while the integration of Mediaset’s pay TV activities in Italy and Spain had “made sense”, the group had no desire to “to dominate” Spanish pay TV and that there was a desire on the part of the Spaniards to control their own pay TV service.

Berlusconi said the group’s pan-European pay TV plan, whereby its activities in Italy and Spain would be combined in a single entity, had been frozen, although there was a possibility it could still be revived. He indicated that the Spanish government is resistant to the idea of other foreign groups taking a leading role in the country’s pay TV business.

Berlusconi confirmed that Mediaset has been in talks with Al Jazeera to sell a stake in its Italian pay TV arm, with other potential investors – believed to include France’s Canal+ – also interested. He said negotiations had been delayed because of uncertainty around the future of Italian Serie A and Champions League football rights, but had now resumed.

Berlusconi said that the group’s Spanish unit and Telefónica were in talks about a possible “strategic partnership”. Spanish press have speculated that Mediaset may be trying to negotiate a more favourable deal with Telefónica that includes preferential production and advertising arrangements.

Telefónica, which recently agreed to acquire Prisa’s 56% stake in Canal+, has offered up to €355 million (US$484.6 million), including an initial payment of €295 million, for the Mediaset stake. Mediaset has until Friday to respond. The group however also has a right of first refusal to bid for Prisa’s stake.