Where to now for Central European Media Enterprises (CME)?
It’s almost a quarter of a century since the company launched TV Nova, one of the first national commercial broadcasters in the CEE region. To say that it has been a rollercoaster of a ride since then is something of an understatement: launches, sales, legal disputes and financial difficulties have all featured prominently at some stage in its chequered 25-year history.
In the company’s latest set of results, Michael Del Nin, one of its two co-CEOs, says that it is now in the best financial shape for a decade. That so may be, but what does the future hold in what is a rapidly changing TV marketplace?
The first thing that should be said is that the sale of CME’s operations in Croatia and Slovenia, first announced a year ago, has gone anything but smoothly. While the former has finally cleared all the regulatory obstacles and should close shortly, the latter still has some way to go.
As to what happens to CME’s four remaining operations, in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania and Bulgaria, well that is anyone guess.
Late last year all the talk was about a possible change of ownership at CME and in December Reuters reported that the Chinese energy group CEFC and Czech/Slovak financial group Penta Investments had made a joint bid of around $2 billion for the Time Warner-owned company. Earlier, the Czech Republic’s PPF Group had apparently dropped their interest in acquiring CME.
Since then we have heard little other than that the Chinese authorities have launched an investigation into Ye Jianming, the head of CEFC, for what were reported to be “economic crimes”. This caused concern in the Czech Republic, where CEFC already had several investments.
While reports of any possible change of ownership at CME should be treated with caution, there is little doubt that the company has turned the corner financially in the last few years. It remains to be seen how it now builds on this.