Chris Dziadul looks at proposed, completed and doubtful deals across the region
The news that Russia’s Sistema may be about to buy into one of Western Europe’s most powerful multimedia companies should come as no surprise. Securing even a minority stake in Telecom Italia, which is valued at around $60 billion (€46.3 billion) and has a presence in a total of eight countries, would be part of its overall strategy of acquiring assets outside the Russian market.
Sistema’s proposed move has nevertheless overshadowed two other deals, one of which has gone ahead and another that appears to have hit the rocks. In Ukraine, which is rarely in the headlines, its most successful broadcaster Inter TV has found itself with a new majority owner. Despite its ongoing political problems, the country’s TV industry is starting to move ahead on a number of fronts, with DTT services, for instance, soon to make their debut.
In Poland, on the other hand, Axel Springer’s acquisition of a 25.1% stake in the national commercial station Polsat is reported to have run into difficulties.
Doubts about the deal, which could be worth up to €300 million, were first voiced before Christmas, and its investigation by the Office for Protection and Consumers’ Protection (UOKiK), which would in normal circumstances have taken only a handful of days, has been dragging on for several weeks.
Now, it has emerged from local reports that a source of friction has developed between the two parties over the German company’s insistence that its representative should occupy the role of finance director. This, or so it appears, is something that Polsat’s majority owner Zygmunt Solorz-Zak is unwilling to give ground on.
Although Solorz-Zak has denied there is a disagreement, no one can guarantee the deal will still go ahead. Its failure to do so could have far-reaching implications for the market in Poland, though for the region’s TV industry as a whole 2007 still promises to be the ‘year of the deal’.(CD)