Are we witnessing the start of a major shift in Central and Eastern Europe’s media and telecoms landscape?
Just a few days ago Vodafone confirmed that it is in talks with Liberty Global about the potential acquisition of some of its overlapping assets in continental Europe. Although Germany is most probably the main market under consideration, also included will be the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania. It should be noted that Liberty Global is in addition present in Poland and Slovakia, with the latter’s business already fully integrated with that in the Czech Republic.
Meanwhile, there have been several reports in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Bulgaria suggesting that the Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, who owns PPF Group, is targeting Telenor’s assets in the region.
The most detailed of these reports to date has come from the Bulgarian business publication Capital, which also says that Kellner is in talks to buy the Bulgarian national commercial broadcaster Nova TV, which is currently owned by Modern Times Group (MTG).
PPF Group is an investment fund with interests spanning a variety of sectors including banking, insurance and real estate, its involvement in the telco industry largely confined to O2, the Czech incumbent and also number three operator in Slovakia.
Reports late last year suggested that it had bid, and then withdrawn its offer, for CME’s operations in the Czech Republic (Nova) and Slovakia (Markiza). This had left China’s CEFC group and Slovakia’s Penta Investments as the sole (joint) bidder for CME’s entire portfolio in the region, but nothing has since materialised.
Now, PPF Group is understood to be in negotiations with Telenor to buy the latter’s assets in Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro. At this stage it is unclear if those in Hungary are also on the table.
While nothing is certain, there is a strong possibility that PPF Group will at some stage this year emerge as an important player in the region’s media and telecoms landscape. This will be particularly true if, in addition to Telenor’s assets, it also snaps up Nova TV.