Swedish Modern Times Group (MTG) confirmed on February 19 that it has signed deal with Petr Kellner, Central Europe’s richest man, on the sale of a 95% stake in its Bulgarian company Nova Broadcasting Group for €185mn.
The deal will give Kellner significant influence on the Bulgarian media market as Nova is the leader in terms of turnover.
The Swedish company has been trying to sell its Bulgarian business for more than a year for some €100mn, but until now it failed to find appropriate buyer. It entered the Bulgarian market in 2007, acquiring the Diema TV channels. A year later, it bought Nova TV for €620mn.
MTG said that it will use the money from the deal with PPF to invest in its Nordic Entertainment, Studios and global digital entertainment businesses.
“MTG’s investments are focused on our Nordic Entertainment, Studios and global digital entertainment verticals, which is why we have found a new home for our Bulgarian employees with a partner that will invest in Nova’s future,” MTG president and CEO Jørgen Madsen Lindemann said in a statement on the company's website.
The deal comes amid a shakeout in the Bulgarian television broadcasting sector.
Another Bulgarian TV broadcaster – BiTV, which started broadcasting in autumn 2015 – was sold to an unknown buyer earlier in February. According to market rumours, the broadcaster was sold as its former owners Pavel and Rumen Valnevi, two Bulgarian brothers who run a transportation network in the US, were under pressure to influence editorial policy.
Media freedom in Bulgaria has been assessed as very poor with a high risk of political pressure on independent media and journalists.
Another big TV channel, bTV, has reportedly been put up for sale by its owner, Czech Republic-based broadcaster Central European Media Enterprises (CME), which is believed to be trying to sell its assets in Bulgaria, Romania, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, Capital reported. Kellner is reportedly interested in this sale as well.
In July last year, CME divested its leading Croatian and Slovenian TV stations to United Group's Slovenia Broadband for €230mn in cash to pay down debt. In January this year, United Group sold Total TV in Croatia.
Earlier this month, Kellner was revealed to be in talks with Norwegian telecommunications group Telenor to buy its assets in Hungary, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Serbia.