Mediaset prepares for “uncertain” 2020, considers stake in ailing ProSieben

Italian broadcaster Mediaset is preparing for an “uncertain” 2020 amid Italy’s Coronavirus outbreak, while also considering its stake in ProSiebenSat.1.

The broadcaster said it could not make “reliable forecasts” about the duration or the effects of the Covid-19 “emergency” on management or results of the group, as it published its annual report.

In lieu of providing financial forecasts, Mediaset said that it is continuing to pursue international expansion “with determination” and that it is “putting in place all the necessary measures to contain the eventual negative impact on the advertising market.”

Mediaset also said that the completion of Media For Europe (MFE) – it’s Europe-wide conglomerate – will see benefits from both “synergies and the new opportunities offered by the pan-European scale”. VIvendi, the Italian broadcaster’s second-largest shareholder, has been fighting the move in court.

Overall, the group saw its operating profits increase to €355m ($400m), for the year, up from €73m in 2018. This came as a result of lowered costs, including on football rights.

Its domestic sales dipped down to €1.98bn from €2.42bn, while operating costs fell to €1.99bn from €2.34bn.

Pondering on ProSieben

Speaking on a conference call, chief financial officer Marco Giordani said that consolidation is more necessary than ever in the European market. Mediaset increased its stake in ProSieben to 15% in 2019, but Giordano said that the investment had been structured to allow it to leave.

Giordani said that the broadcaster will receive a strategy update next month and that it will then evaluate whether “to stay, to leave or to increase” its investment.

ProSieben, which is led by former Dyson CEO Max Conze, is in the midst of a financial crisis, with its share price tanking from more than €14 at the start of the year to just above €8 today.

The German broadcaster, which has been exploring a sale of Red Arrow Studios, recently made a $500m investment in dating app developer The Meet Group, which sent shares to a decade-low.

In a tumultuous week for the German media giant, deputy CEO Conrad Albert criticised his own company. In an interview with German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung, he said the “outstanding” business was suffering from a “boardroom soap opera”. His contract is due to end in April 2021.

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