Irish Communicorp Group is exiting Bulgaria after selling its six radio stations in the country to the local management, the Dublin based group said on June 22.
Communicorp CEO Adrian Serle said the group was pulling out to focus on its core businesses in Ireland and the UK. However, local daily Dnevnik also attributes the decision to the declining advertising market in Bulgaria.
The company owned some of the most popular radio stations in the country - BG Radio, Nova, Energy, Radio 1, Radio 1 Rock, Veronica and the radio and TV station City.
The size of the deal with newly formed holding company Fresh Media Bulgaria was not disclosed, but Dnevnik reported it at €5.4mn.
“Communicorp Media is delighted to have sold its Bulgarian Radio Group to the local management team. We wish them every success with the business in the future and are confident of its continued success under their strong leadership,” Serle said in a statement.
“Despite the Bulgarian market, and the performance of the business, being very healthy over recent years, Communicorp decided to sell the business to focus on its core radio and digital opportunities across the UK and Ireland,” he added.
Following the sale, there is only one international media owner left in the country – Czech Republic-based broadcaster Central European Media Enterprises (CME), which holds the second largest TV station bTV. However, there are rumours that the company is trying to sell its assets in Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Communicorp is yet another international company exiting Bulgaria this year. Also in the TMT sector, Swedish Modern Times Group (MTG) sold its stake in the local Nova Broadcasting Group in February, while telecoms company Telenor sold its business in Bulgaria, Montenegro, Serbia and Hungary to Petr Kellner, Central Europe’s richest man.
The exit of several big players has raised concerns among local economic analysts that Bulgarian government is pushing investors away with its inadequate policies and the lack of any will to pursue a serious fight against top-level corruption.
In April, Reporters Without Borders ranked Bulgaria lowest in the EU and in the Balkan region in terms of media freedom in its 2018 World Press Freedom Index. The report slammed widespread corruption and collusion between media, politicians and oligarchs.
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