Does Central European Media Enterprises (CME) plan to exit the CEE TV market?
Until recently such a question would have probably been dismissed out of hand. After all, here was a company that had built up one of the most successful broadcasting businesses in the region in the last quarter of a century. Admittedly there had been many changes over the years, but it was still a key player in the six markets it was present in.
However, exactly four months ago CME announced that it had agreed to sell its operations in two of those markets – Croatia and Slovenia – to Slovenia Broadband, a subsidiary of United Group, for €230 million in cash. The money it received from the transaction would be used to repay a loan of €250.8 million, due in 2018.
CME’s move took the industry by surprise and led many to ask what comes next. Will the company remain in the four remaining markets it is present in – The Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria – or will it call time on them, too?
Since then, there have been a number of reports in the local media as to what may now happen.
Some of the most interesting, published only days ago in both the Czech Republic and Slovakia, said that the Czech media entrepreneurs Daniel Kretinsky, Petr Kellner and Marek Dospiva have teamed up to bid for CME’s remaining assets in the region.
They added that CME’s owner Time Warner is keen to sell these assets together rather than individually, for around CZK50-55 billion (€1.95-2.15 billion). Initially, it had been seeking in the region of €4 million but had since dropped the price.
Given that these reports also said that Time Warner would like to conclude a sale by the middle of the month, we will probably soon learn if they are true or not.
What cannot be denied, however, is that Time Warner’s attention right now is largely focused on the US and its proposed, and indeed troubled, takeover by AT&T. For it, selling CME’s assets may therefore be something of a side show.
They are neverthless hugely important to the region’s TV industry and their future should be everyone’s concern.