Bulgaria Oks CME Acquisition of Murdoch's TV Station
Bulgaria's competition watchdog gave the green light for Central European Media Enterprises to acquire Bulgaria's first national private television bTV, wholly owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
The approval of the Bulgarian Commission for the Protection of Competition was the last hurdle before the closure of the deal, which was signed on February 18.
Under the terms of the agreement, CME will pay USD 400 M in cash for 100% of the terrestrial free-to-air TV channel, bTV. It will also take control of the two genre channels, bTV Comedy and bTV Cinema, along with News Corporation’s 74-per-cent interest in Radio Company C.J which operates five radio stations.
The sale completes News Corporation's programme of exiting its substantial Eastern European free-to-air broadcasting businesses.
The approval of Bulgaria's watchdog came just as CME wrapped up the sale of Ukrainian channels Studio 1+1 and Kino to local businessman Igor Kolomoisky for USD 300 M and said it would use the proceeds to close its Bulgarian buy.
News Corporation was advised by JP Morgan, while CME was advised by Deutsche Bank AG, London Branch.
The sale is the third large deal on the Bulgarian TV market for the last two years after the US Central European Media Enterprises bought the cable TV2 and Ring for EUR 110 M, and the Swedish MTG Group acquired Nova TV for EUR 620 M.
Talks about the upcoming sale of the TV station first emerged in July 2008. Rupert Murdoch's News Corp NWSa.N first hired Lehman Brothers LEH.N to ascertain the value and strategic options for three Eastern European television stations - wholly owned properties in Latvia, Serbia and Bulgaria - after being approached by multiple suitors.
According to reports the properties were not doing poorly, but the company had decided to hire Lehman after the suitors' approaches.
At least seven big suitors, including the Colon-based German TV RTL, said they were considering buying the portfolio of Bulgaria's largest and most successful TV station a year ago. Initially the price was set at EUR 1,1 B, but eventually shrank. The offers, however, dried up with the onset of the global financial crisis.
bTV recently launched two theme channels - bTV Comedy, which succeeded the cable GTV, and bTV Cinema, which seeks to complement and enhance the programme proposals of the broadcaster.
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