* Aims for deal with global internet player in 2012
* Web sales to be less than 1 percent of total 2012 revs
* Telecoms have sharply cut ad spending early 2012
* Shares up 0.5 percent (Adds comment on internet plans, background)
MILAN, March 1 (Reuters) - Mediaset, Italy’s biggest commercial broadcaster, signalled plans to expand its online business through deals with global players, and confirmed 2011 net profit would be above 200 million euros ($268 million).
Chief executive Giliano Adreani also said in an interview with Il Sole 24 Ore on Thursday that advertising sales at the start of 2012 were weak as telecoms operators sharply cut spending. Mediaset is owned by Silvio Berlusconi.
“The internet has now started to develop. The time has come to invest strongly. Alone we could treble advertising sales on the web, which in 2012 will reach 30-40 million euros, thanks to TV shows available online, the all-news channel and applications for smartphones and tablets,” he said.
Mediaset, Italy’s leading advertising player with a market share above 35 percent, is forecast to have 2012 revenue of about 4.3 billion euros, meaning that 40 million euros would represent less than 1 percent.
Italy lags other European countries in broadband internet and needs to boost its infrastructure. Only about 48 percent of Italians regularly use the internet, ranking the country 23rd in Europe.
“We want to accelerate and we are in contact with big international players interested in boosting their Italian presence with an adequate advertising collection,” Adreani told the newspaper.
Adreani said Mediaset aimed at closing an internet deal this year not only with players like Apple and Google , but also Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter and Yahoo.
“We have no preclusions,” he said, adding an alliance could bring internet revenues to a figure in the region of “hundreds of millions” of euros.
Advertising collection for Mediaset’s free-to-air channels fell 11.5 percent in December, according to Nielsen data cited by Mediobanca in a note on Thursday.
Adreani said a recovery was possible in the second part of the year, helped by the London Olympics and the European soccer championship.
The company releases 2011 results on March 20.
Mediaset will likely cut sharply its 2011 dividend, after falling audiences and sharp economic downturns in its key Italian and Spanish markets hit sales. ($1 = 0.7476 euro) (Reporting by Danilo Masoni and Jennifer Clark)