Canal+ has acquired the Luxembourg-based M7, which operates a series of independent pay-TV platforms across the Benelux and Central Europe.
In a statement, Canal said the acquisition price would be set at just over €1 billion, based on a turnover of more than €400 million.
Maxime Saada, Chairman of the Canal+ Group Executive Board, said: “We are particularly pleased with this acquisition project achieved thanks to Vivendi’s full support. The operation would allow Canal+ Group to approach the 20 million subscribers worldwide. Our global subscriber base will have almost doubled in five years, with a clear acceleration since 2015. This major acquisition would allow us to reinforce our distribution capacity and to spread more widely the contents of our catalog and our numerous production activities in Europe.”
M7 has operations in Belgium (TV Vlaanderen and TéléSat), the Netherlands (CanalDigitaal and Online.nl), Austria (HD Austria), Skylink in the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, and M7 Germany in Germany. Between them the operations have 3 million subscribers to hybrid satellite / OTT Pay TV packages with 800,000 subscribing to an basic access package. At the end of the transaction, the Canal+ Group will hold almost 20 million subscribers worldwide, including 12 million in Europe.
M7 is owned by private equity firm Astorg Partners. In September 2014 the investment firm acquired a majority stake in M7, from an investor group led by Providence Equity Partners. Providence and Airbridge Investments continued to be significant minority shareholders of M7.
Commenting on the acquisition by Canal+, Charles-Hubert le Baron, at Astorg said: “Since our cooperation with M7 in 2014, the company has continued to expand its business rapidly in Eastern Europe, while further upselling its subscriber base across all geographies. In line with our investment philosophy, Astorg has encouraged M7 to develop its external growth through acquisitions (the most recent one being UPC Direct in Eastern Europe) and also investments made to improve the customer experience (e.g. Over-the-Top features). Canal+ strong interest in M7 is a testimony of the remarkable strategy rolled-out by the M7 management team.”
Canal+ was a natural strategic partner to pursue the M7 project. Marc Antoine d’Halluin, Chairman of the M7 board, stated: “Based on its current geographical footprint and positioning, Canal+ is a very credible and complementary partner to support the hybrid satellite / OTT Pay TV strategy of M7. Canal+ will contribute to the further development of M7, where OTT usage and access to more content will be decisive. This is a logical step for the M7 success story as both M7 and Canal+ share the same operational values centered on a great customer experience.”
Hans Troelstra, CEO of M7 Group further commented: “Over the last 5 years, we have successfully transformed our Satellite HD offers to fully interactive hybrid offers available on all devices including Smart – TV’s. Following this transaction M7 will get access to the content creation and channel publishing capabilities of Canal+. The operational model from M7, and our ambitions to grow in Europe, will not change and all operations will continue to be managed from our Luxembourg headquarters.”
M7 has built up a portfolio of local DTH platforms; in May 2014, M7 Group purchased the German direct-to-cable platform KabelKiosk from satellite operator Eutelsat, adding to the CanalDigitaal business in the Benelux.
In December 2018, M7 acquired Liberty Global’s DTH operation UPC DTH adding to the Skylink operation in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
The acquisition of M7 marks a return of the Dutch operations to Canal+, as they originally were part of Vivendi Universal until 1 September 2004, when investment companies Greenfield Capital Partners and Airbridge Investments took over the Dutch activities. Both companies joined forces in the Airfield Holding, in which Airbridge had a majority stake. The satellite DTH offer continued to be offered under the name CanalDigitaal, using the licence and brand name of the Canal+ Group.
On 12 October 2005, Canal+’s pay-TV channels were sold to Chellomedia (owned by Liberty Global), which renamed them Film1 and Sport1 on 1 February 2006.
Later Greenfield stepped out of the holding and Airbridge became the sole owner. In February 2007, Providence Equity Partners acquired a majority interest from Airfield; Airbridge Investments retains the minority interest.
Since 1 October 2009, TV Vlaanderen, TéléSat and CanalDigitaal have been incorporated into the M7 Group S.A., which operates from Luxembourg.