di Davide Marchetta
Milan, May 14 - Italian television giant Mediaset on Tuesday reported flat first-quarter profits on the back of declining revenues. In a statement, the firm - controlled by the family of former premier Silvio Berlusconi - said that net profits in the first three months of 2013 were 9.3 million euros, slightly lower than the 10.1 million euros reported in the same period of 2012. Revenues at the group, which owns broadcast channels including Italia Uno, Rete 4 and Canale 5, dropped to 635 million euros from 760 million euros in the first three months of 2012 as advertising sales weakened. The company said ad sales were 501 million euros in January-March, compared with 622 million euros in the year-ago period. However the company reported progress in its pay-per-view Mediaset Premium selection. Sales of prepaid cards, refills and Easy Pay subscriptions grew by 10% on the first quarter of 2012 to 144 million euros, the company said. Overall operating expenses at the group, including amortization, dropped by some 20% to 600 million euros from 742 million euros in the same period a year ago. The company also saw its net debt situation improve, with debt dropping to 1.584 billion euros in the first three months of 2013 compared with 1.712 billion euros at the end of 2012. In its statement, Mediaset said that the data on its advertising sales at the end of the first four months of the current (financial) year "confirm how in both Italy and Spain there is a contraction" compared to the year-ago period, "in line" with the contraction during the first quarter. The company said that while there are indications in May of a stabilization in ad sales over the remainder of the year, "the scarce visibility, uncertainty and economic instability in the two countries do now allow us at present to make reliable forecasts regarding the evolution of advertising sales on a yearly basis".