Central and Eastern Europe’s TV industry has seen major shifts in ownership in the last couple of years.
New players have entered the market and others either increased or reduced their presence. In at least one instance they have left it entirely.
The most striking development has been the acquisition spree United Group embarked on since it secured the backing of BC Partners as a majority owner. Although already an important player in South Eastern Europe, it has strengthened its position still further by buying Tele2’s operation in Croatia, Greece’s Forthnet and the Bulgarian incumbent telco Vivacom. It has also just received regulatory approval to buy Nova, one of the two leading commercial broadcasters in Bulgaria.
Up until two years ago, the latter was the last remaining Modern Times Group (MTG) asset in Central and Eastern Europe. At its height, the Swedish company had maintained a presence in several regional markets including Russia, Ukraine, Hungary and the Czech Republic before embarking on an exit strategy. Although MTG initially agreed to sell Nova to PPF Group, the deal was blocked by the Bulgarian competition authority and eventually the company was bought by the Bulgarian Domuschiev brothers in early 2019.
Although this was a setback for PPF Group, which is owned by the Czech billionaire Petr Kellner, it has recently undertaken two major acquisitions that have transformed it into a major player in the industry. The first was securing Telenor’s regional interests in August 2018 in a deal worth €2.8 billion and second more recently acquiring the Central European Media Enterprises (CME) assets in five markets (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and Slovenia) from AT&T and other shareholders for around €2.1 billion.
Meanwhile, Vivendi’s Canal+ has gone from having a presence in only one market (Poland) to being a major regional player following its acquisition of Luxembourg-based M7 Group in May 2019. The latter owned the Skylink operations in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and had itself recently bought UPC DTH, which operated satellite TV services in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania, from Liberty Global.
Liberty Global has also recently sold its cable operations in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania to Vodafone, with the latter in the process becoming a major player in the provision of converged services in CEE.
Other players have been less active on the M&A front, with Deutsche Telekom and Orange, for instance, only being involved in one major deal, namely the sale of Telekom Romania’s fixed assets by OTE to Orange. The market nevertheless remains quite fluid and more transactions are likely to take place in the coming months.
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