By Stephen Jewkes and Paola Arosio
MILAN (Reuters) - Italy's biggest commercial broadcaster, Mediaset, has joined forces with infrastructure fund F2i to launch a takeover bid for EI Towers, the companies said on Monday.
Together with F2i, the Milan-based TV group, which already owns 40 percent of EI Towers, has offered 57 euros per share for the rest of the Italian masts group.
The bid represents a premium of 19.2 percent to the weighted average of prices in the six months preceding the announcement, F2i said in a statement.
The group is worth 1.4 billion euros ($1.6 billion) based on Monday's closing price of 49.35 euros a share.
The bid is launched through a special purpose company called 2i Towers, indirectly controlled by F2i.
The sector has been attracting investors looking for infrastructure-based assets that offer steady returns thanks to multi-year hosting contracts.
Italy's Benetton family last week completed the purchase of a 29.9 percent stake in Cellnex for 1.49 billion euros and said it saw strong growth prospects for the Spanish masts group.
EI Towers owns and manages the main Italian network for the transmission of the TV signal, a network for the transmission of mobile telephone services and has a fiber optic backbone of over 6,000 km serving its infrastructure.
Under the guidance of a fund, EI Towers could take part in the consolidation underway in the sector.
"EI Towers will acquire the role of independent operator, a status that will make possible to participate more effectively in the process of consolidation in the broadcasting and telephone towers business...," Mediaset said in a statement.
Credit Suisse, Mediobanca and Intesa Sanpaolo advised F2i while UniCredit advised Mediaset.
EI Towers was born in 2012 when Mediaset, which is controlled by the family of former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, merged its tower business with rival DMT Group.
In 2015 EI Towers attempted to take over rival state-owned Rai Way but met resistance from Italy's then centre-left government, which said it wanted to keep a stake of at least 51 percent in the towers unit of national broadcaster Rai.
($1 = 0.8539 euros)
(Additional reporting by Francesca Landini in Milan, Ishita Chigilli Palli in Bengaluru; writing by Francesca Landini; editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Louise Heavens)
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