ProSiebenSat explores alternative sale

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ProSiebenSat.1, the German broadcaster that last year agreed to be sold to German media giant Axel Springer for €4.2bn, has begun to explore an alternative sale process with rival broadcasters, including TF1 of France and SBS of Luxembourg.

Springer, publisher of the tabloid “Bild”, is in dispute with local regulators about its acquisition of ProSiebenSat, the country’s second-largest commercial broadcaster. There were fears that it would dominate the advertising market and have too much influence over public opinion.

A person close to the situation said there was a 50/50 chance that Springer’s deal would go ahead, although ProSiebenSat had agreed to extend the deal’s deadline to the end of May while negotiations continued.

But ProSiebenSat would be expected to attract a higher price with a new suitor, partly based on the broadcaster’s continued market share growth. ProSiebenSat’s quoted shares traded on the German stock market at about €14 each when the Springer deal was being agreed, compared with €19 recently.

ProSiebenSat, owner of four German TV channels, counts Haim Saban, the US media investor as well as Springer and a group of private equity firms, as its main investors.

SBS was bought last year by Permira and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, the buy-out groups, for €2.1bn. Blackstone, the US buy-out group, is also thought to have shown interest in ProSiebenSat, while NBC Universal and Viacom of the US may also take a fresh look at the business.

Springer has spent the past week weighing its chances of mounting a political and legal battle to get approval to buy ProSiebenSat after two regulators vetoed the original deal.

A veto by the state media watchdogs at the beginning of the year saw Springer agree to sell the popular “Pro7” channel as a price for keeping the other three. But the federal cartel office insisted that the channel be sold before the takeover of the rest of ProSiebenSat and Springer withdrew its offer.

The publisher can seek special permission from the federal government to overturn the cartel office’s ruling and from a two-thirds majority of the state governments to reverse the ruling of their media watchdogs.

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