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Exclusive-Italy's MFE to seek clearance to lift ProSieben stake-sources

FILE PHOTO: The logo of German media company ProSiebenSat.1 in front of its headquarters in Unterfoehring

By Elvira Pollina

MILAN (Reuters) - Italian broadcaster MediaForEurope (MFE) is preparing to seek regulatory clearance to raise its stake in ProSiebenSat.1 in a fresh sign of its commitment to the German group, two sources close to the matter said.

Controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and formerly known as Mediaset, MFE sees expansion in Europe as the answer to stiff competition in the industry from online advertising and streaming giants.

With an existing 23.9% stake, of which 2.29% is held through financial instruments, MFE is already the single largest shareholder in ProsiebenSat.1.

MFE's board this week gave its backing for filing documents with German competition regulators to get the authorisations needed to raise its stake above 25%, the two sources said.

Both MFE and ProSieben declined to comment.

The potential stakebuilding, which has not been decided yet, would not be large enough to trigger a mandatory buyout offer, the two sources said speaking on conditions of anonymity given that deliberations are not public.

Under German laws, an investor is required to launch a buyout offer if it crosses the 30% ownership threshold in a company.

Despite a lukewarm response from ProSieben over its requests for closer collaboration on strategy, Mediaset has repeatedly said it remained committed to its investment in the German broadcaster.

In December, ProSieben extended Chief Executive Ranier Beaujean's contract until 2027, and proposed three nominees to replace the company's supervisory board members whose positions are set to expire this year.

The announcement received a cool response from MFE, which said it reserved the right to propose its own candidates for the supervisory board at the AGM in May.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina; Additional reporting by Klaus Lauer; editing by Valentina Za and Keith Weir)