It is not quite in the same league as Vivendi. But news that private equity groups Kohlberg Kravis Roberts and Permira are poised to take control of Germany’s ProSiebenSat1 Media is a big deal nonetheless.
A month ago, it emerged that KKR’s €40bn takeover plan for Vivendi had failed. Now, alongside Permira, it is said to be paying €3.1bn-€3.2bn for 50.5 per cent of ProSiebenSat1. The deal could be announced as early as Friday. The private equity consortium selling out timed its original 2003 purchase well. Assume its holding was 30 per cent equity financed, add in €140m of dividends already received and the sale implies it has made almost seven times its investment.
In Germany, where one prominent politician infamously dubbed financial sponsors as “locusts”, not everyone will be happy. Two aspects of the new consortium’s offer, however, should help mitigate any backlash.
For one thing, KKR and Permira are not Mediaset. News that the media conglomerate linked with Silvio Berlusconi was bidding drew a frosty response from German politicians and it was rebuffed.
Second, the prospective buyers can claim some sort of industrial strategy. Indeed, a straight punt, without a more ambitious plan, would be difficult to justify at this price. If successful, the acquirers are expected to buy out at least some of the minorities and merge ProSiebenSat1 with SBS, the Luxembourg-based broadcaster the consortium took control of last year.
That would create a pan-European broadcaster spanning Germany, the Benelux region, Scandinavia and eastern Europe. Cross-border synergies in television are hard to realise, although scale possibly brings some benefits. More interesting though, is what happens next. Given that the likes of Goldman Sachs and Apax Partners appear to have failed this time, it remains open season on Europe’s TV sector.