Although 2019 has been relatively quiet so far on the M&A front in Central and Eastern Europe, the second half of the year is likely to be more active.
In the first six months we saw Modern Times Group (MTG) finally exit the region by selling its Bulgarian operation Nova TV to the locally owned Advance Media Group. Telekom Srbija continued its acquisition spree, both inside Serbia and in neighbouring countries, while United Group gained a new majority shareholder in the form of BC Partners.
United Group also made an important move into Croatia, agreeing to buy Tele2’s business for €200 million.
At the same time, a major deal in the Polish cable market that would have seen the number three operator (Multimedia Polska) bought by the second (Vectra) was put in doubt following a review by the competition authority UOKiK. In Slovenia, CME pulled the plug on its proposed sale of the country’s leading commercial broadcaster to United Group, and most recently Vivendi’s Canal+ made a major move into the region by agreeing to buy Luxembourg-based M7 Group, which has broadcasting assets in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.
As to the next few months, we may shortly hear about the sale of some if not all CME’s interests, with the Czech Republic’s PPF Group rumoured to be a possible buyer. The Czech DTH and IPTV operator Digi CZ could also find itself under new ownership.
We will in addition learn of the European Commission’s final ruling on the sale of Liberty Global’s operations in the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania to Vodafone. The likelihood is that it will be given the green light, signalling the biggest change in CEE’s cable industry for many years.
It also goes without saying that there will be one or two surprise M&As. All in all, this is an interesting time for the industry in CEE, one of re-alignment as some outside investors exit and others either enter or expand their presence in the market.