This year could end with yet another burst of activity on the M&A front in Central and Eastern Europe.
Just this week we learned about no fewer than three major deals, one confirmed and two possible. The former involves Baltcom, the largest cable operator in Latvia, and the news that it will soon have a new owner in the shape of Bite Latvija. Although details of the transaction have not been released, it will require the approval of the country’s Competition Council.
Meanwhile, the first of the two possible deals concerns the Bulgarian incumbent BTC, perhaps better known by its brand name Vivacom. No stranger to ownership changes in recent years, it is reportedly now being targeted by BC Funds, whose interests in the region include United Group, and Providence Equity. Given that both have already submitted offers and been invited to make binding bids by mid-October, a deal could certainly be on the cards before the year is over.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the second of the possible deals relates to AT&T-backed Central European Media Enterprises (CME) and the sale of its assets in the region. Although this is a story that rumbles on and on, it has been given traction by the actual disposal of Nova TV in Croatia, coupled to the failed sale of CME’s Slovenian operations, and the announcement earlier this year that CME has started to “explore and evaluate potential strategic alternatives” that are focused on maximising shareholder value.
A report in the Czech media this week said that the local billionaire Peter Kellner’s PPF Group is the only party interested in acquiring CME, with two others – Discovery and Ronald Lauder, the original owner – having dropped out of the running.
Although there may be some substance to the report, it should probably at this stage be treated with caution.