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Italy's ad market seen slightly lower in 2022, says MFE exec

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MILAN (Reuters) -Italy's advertising market is set to dip in 2022 but it will still remain close to pre-COVID levels, an executive at the country's top commercial broadcaster MediaForEurope (MFE) was quoted on Thursday as saying.

"The sentiment is that 2022...will not be a year of consolidation of single-digit growth as previously expected," the chief executive of MFE's advertising unit Publitalia, Stefano Sala said, according to Il Sole 24 Ore daily.

"It will rather be one (a year) of moderate decline, but we will remain well above 2020 levels and close to the pre-COVID market levels of 2019," he said, adding the current energy crisis risks having a more prolonged impact on businesses than the pandemic.

Controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and previously known as Mediaset, MFE makes the bulk of its turnover in Italy by selling advertising space on its free-to-air channels such as Canale 5.

Sala had said in June that MFE's advertising revenues in Italy would be only flat in the first six months of the current year.

The broadcaster will publish its first half results on Sept.28.

Sala's comments on Thursday "could imply a downward revision of the company full year 2022 guidance", Intesa Sanpaolo said in a research note.

MFE had targeted an annual 1% increase of its advertising revenue and a 0.6% fall in its operating costs in Italy.

MFE ordinary shares were 1.1% down by 0945 GMT against a 0.5% fall in Italy's all-share index.

(Reporting by Elvira Pollina and Francesca Piscioneri, editing by Federico Maccioni and Keith Weir)