Czech media oligarchs add radio stations to their media empire

Czech media oligarchs add radio stations to their media empire
Among the assets being taken over is Poland's second-largest radio station, Radio Zet, organisers of this event in Poznan.
By Jaroslav Hroch in Prague April 17, 2018

Czech Media Investment (CMI) group, controlled by billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, will pay CZK1.8bn (€73mn) for Lagardere group radio stations operating in Czechia, Slovakia, Poland and Romania with a combined consolidated revenue of €56mn.

Lagardere's Czech operations have a market share of around 20% and include popular radios Evropa 2, Frekvence 1 and Bonton. The group also has a 50% share in Radiohouse, the top player on the Czech radio ad market.

The deal, subject to approval by competition watchdogs in all concerned countries, represents the first sell-off of Lagarde Active assets within its strategic aims, as announced by owner Arnaud Lagardere on March 8.

Numerous Czech media owned by foreign investors have in recent years returned to local hands, including those of Slovak-born billionaire Andrej Babis, the caretaker prime minister and the controversial financier Zdenek Bakala, a former coal baron.

But CMI is also looking farther afield; in Romania, it will buy Europa FM and Virgin Radio; in Poland, it will acquire Radio Zet, the country's second-most popular station, with a 12% market share in Q1, 2108, as well as smaller but other significant brands Radio Zet Chilli, Meloradio, Antyradio and Radio Plus Polska; and in Slovakia, it will buy Europa 2, fourth-strongest radio on the market with a 15% share.

CMI is co-owned by energy investor Kretinsky, a billionaire alumnus of Slovak financial group J&T, other high-profile investors Patrik Tkac and Roman Korbacka.

In June 2016, CMI added other titles to its already robust Czech portfolio, including business daily E15 and offshoot E15 Weekly; as well as F.O.O.D., Betynka, Dieta and Moje psychologie.

In 2013, Kretinsky and Tkac bought the Czech assets of German-Swiss publisher Ringier Axel Springer, whose stable included leading tabloids Blesk and Aha!, sports daily Sport, and magazines Reflex, ABC, and Svet Motoru. Subsequently, their rebranded Czech News Center accounted for around 30% of newspaper readership.

The company also owns two printing companies and is a leader in books publishing and press distribution.

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