By Elvira Pollina
MILAN (Reuters) -Mediaset on Wednesday posted a six-fold rise in first-half operating profit, topping pre-pandemic levels, as the broadcaster controlled by the family of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi remained keen on cross-border M&A.
Like other traditional broadcasters, Mediaset is facing stiffer competition in the industry due to the growth of online giants such as Facebook, Google and streaming services like Netflix.
Boosted by the economic recovery after last year's pandemic- driven slump, the company reported a first-half group operating profit of 198.7 million euros ($234.57 million) compared with 31.7 million euros last year and 4% higher than in 2019.
Mediaset said the positive trend in overall advertising sales on TV, radio and digital outlets in Italy continued in the third quarter, with cumulative figures for the first nine months expected to be 1% higher than 2019 levels.
Italy's top commercial broadcaster sees building up alliances with peers across the continent as the answer to the long-standing challenges posed by newcomers.
As part of this strategy, it approved a plan to move its legal base to the Netherlands, seen as neutral base from which to pursue expansion plans abroad.
"The traditional media market in Europe is due to consolidate", Mediaset's chief financial officer Marco Giordani told analysts during a post-results conference call.
Giordani said Mediaset could play a passive or an active role in the process, adding that the company would keep pursuing an expansion strategy to "be as large as possible".
The executive did not provide details on any potential target but ruled out for the moment any move to consolidate its listed Spanish business. Mediaset is also a large minority investor in Germany's ProSiebenSat.1 Media.
Mediaset shares were up 1.5% by 0900 GMT, compared with a 0.1% fall in Italy's all-share index.
(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Editing by Jon Boyle)