Are we about to enter a period of high profile mergers and acquisitions in the CEE TV industry?
While parts of the region are still battling with economic problems – Romania, for instance, is expected to remain in recession for the rest of this year – there are signs of recovery in even such territories as Ukraine and Baltic Republics, which were particularly hard hit by the downturn.
In short, we are now in a very different situation to the one that existed only a handful of months ago, and with the markets finally starting to move could see some major deals happen.
In Poland, the country’s fourth largest cable operator Aster has already been identified as a potential take-over target by all three of its larger rivals – UPC, Vectra and Multimedia Polska. Yet it, too, has expansion on its mind: only this week it has been reported that the company plans to invest PLN100 million (€24.4 million) in 2010, with the acquisition of telcos firmly on its agenda.
There is also growing speculation that the Polish national transmission company EmiTel might be sold by its owner, the incumbent telco TP. Companies such as EmiTel, which play a key role in countries’ newly emerging DTT marketplaces, are particularly attractive to investors – something demonstrated quite clearly in Bulgaria with the recent sale of a 50% in NURTS to Mancelord.
Aside from in Poland, cable consolidation is also likely to be seen in such markets as Hungary and Romania. In the latter, Romtelecom has signalled its intention to overtake RCS/RDS and UPC as the leading provider of TV and internet services within three years, and buying up small cable networks is an important element of its strategy.
While it is almost inevitable that we will also see some consolidation in the region’s DTH sector, things may not be quite so straightforward. Some of the weaker platforms in countries such as Romania will in all likelihood be swallowed up by their larger rivals. On the other hand, new platforms will also continue to appear, operated in some instances by incumbent telcos and leading commercial broadcasters.
All in all, we can expect to see a number of interesting deals as the region finally starts to recover from its worst economic crisis in two decades.