Bulgaria’s TV7, News7 channels file for bankruptcy protection

Bulgarian television channels TV7 and News7 filed for bankruptcy protection in the Sofia City Court, but said in June 30 statement that legal proceedings would not have any impact on their broadcasting operations.

The two channels said that they encountered difficulties making payments after the Corporate Commercial Bank (CCB) was put under the special supervision of the Bulgarian National Bank (BNB) earlier this month, freezing all banking operation. CCB is the “main servicing bank” for the two channels, the statement said.

CCB is currently undergoing asset assessment prior to recapitalisation, either by existing shareholders or the state Bulgarian Development Bank, and is scheduled to resume normal operations on July 21, BNB has said.

TV7 said that most of its creditors and partners agreed to postpone payments or temporarily suspend existing contracts. However, a small number of its creditors “have undertaken extreme legal action and filed a claim in the Sofia City Court, asking it to begin bankruptcy proceedings,” the TV channel said.

Although TV7 did not name the creditors that lodged the suit, reports in Bulgarian media said that this was one of the main outside production companies it was working with, No Frame Media Bulgaria, owned by former TV chief executive Nikolai Barekov.

Barekov, who was elected to the European Parliament last month on the ticket of Bulgaria Without Censorship – named after a travelling talk-show hosted by Barekov on TV7, told news website Offnews.bg on June 27 that he remains the owner of the production company, but does not participate in its management (as he is forbidden by law to do so).

He said that he did not know the exact figure owed by TV7, but estimated such debts in the range of millions of leva.

TV7 and News7 are owned by London-based investment banking firm Alegro Capital, which acquired them in 2012. Domestically, however, the two are seen as closely allied with the publishing stable of New Bulgarian Media Group Holding, until recently owned by the family of controversial MP Delyan Peevski.

(Peevski’s mother sold her media holdings earlier this year, although critics on social media have questioned whether the deal was a legitimate one or done only for appearances’ sake. The same circles also allege that CCB majority shareholder Tsvetan Vassilev, who is in the middle of a very public falling-out with Peevski, was the main source of financing for TV7 – a charge that Barekov, as former chief executive of the channel, denied in his interview with Offnews.bg.)

TV7 and News7 has been among the media organisations to take a decidedly pro-government stance during the protests in the summer of 2013 demanding the resignation of the Plamen Oresharski cabinet (sparked, as they were, by the aborted appointment of Peevski as director of the State Agency for National Security in June 2013.)

(Photo: Michal Zacharzewski/sxc.hu)



The Sofia Globe staff

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