Modern Times Group (MTG) has terminated its previous agreement to sell its majority stake in Bulgarian broadcaster Nova Broadcasting Group to Czech investment conglomerate PPF Group and has opened talks with “other interested parties regarding the sale of its shareholding in Bulgaria’s largest commercial media group.”
Announced in February 2018, the deal valued Nova Broadcasting at 185 million euro, with PPF Group saying at the time that it would be acquiring full control of the company by purchasing 95 per cent from MTG and the remaining 5% stake from Eastern European Media Holdings S.A.
But the deal was blocked by Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) in July 2018, surprisingly so, given that PPF Group has no operations on the Bulgarian media market.
CPC ruled that Nova Broadcasting had “significant financial and organisational resources, the opportunity for economy of scale and reach and an established image,” while PPF Group had extensive investment experience, which meant that the participants in the merger would have “the stimulus and real possibility to change their commercial policy in different ways that would lead to reduced access, increased prices or changes to contracts already in place,” the regulator said at the time.
MTG continues thus to seek an exit from Bulgaria more than a decade after entering the market through the acquisition of the Diema stable of cable channels in 2007. A year later, it bought Nova Televizia – one of Bulgaria’s two largest privately-owned free-to-air broadcasters – from Greece’s Antenna Group for 620 million euro.
In 2013, Nova Broadcasting expanded its digital footprint when it agreed to purchase 70 per cent of the merged assets of Bulgarian radio broadcaster Darik and Netinfo, which operated a number of websites, including a video sharing portal and webmail service.