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FOREIGN INVESTOR SPENDS MILLIONS TO ACQUIRE POPULAR RÁDIO EXPRES

Radio station broadcasts sale

SLOVAKIA is about to lap up more foreign investment - and it has nothing to do with the automotive industry.
In a buy out agreement signed January 11, American radio broadcasting giant Emmis Communications Corporation will pay $14 million to Rádio Expres in exchange for its empire.
Rádio Expres, headquartered in Bratislava, broadcasts popular music, news and entertainment over 32 stations nationwide.
Director (and soon-to-be former Rádio Expres shareholder) Václav Mika confirmed that once Emmis meets the conditions of the contract, 100 percent of Rádio Expres shares would be transferred to the Emmis Corporation.
Acquisition completion is expected in the spring of 2005.


Rádio Expres's traffic repots gained a large audience.
photo: TASR

SLOVAKIA is about to lap up more foreign investment - and it has nothing to do with the automotive industry.

In a buy out agreement signed January 11, American radio broadcasting giant Emmis Communications Corporation will pay $14 million to Rádio Expres in exchange for its empire.

Rádio Expres, headquartered in Bratislava, broadcasts popular music, news and entertainment over 32 stations nationwide.

Director (and soon-to-be former Rádio Expres shareholder) Václav Mika confirmed that once Emmis meets the conditions of the contract, 100 percent of Rádio Expres shares would be transferred to the Emmis Corporation.

Acquisition completion is expected in the spring of 2005.

"Slovakia fits our strategy because it presents an opportunity to leverage our other international success in one of the world's fastest developing economies," said Paul Fiddick, the president of Emmis.

Emmis Corporation owns 30 radio stations and 16 TV channels serving several top markets in the US, including New York City, Los Angeles, and Chicago. In Europe, Emmis operates nine FM stations in Belgium and owns a stake in Hungary's popular Sláger Rádió, a favourite among listeners in southern Slovakia as well.

At the beginning of 2004, the founders of Rádio Expres - Dušan Budzák, Robert Bartoš and Mika - decided the time had come to sell.

Established in 2000 as a six-frequency company, Rádio Expres grew into a profitable business against all odds. At the time Budzák, Bartoš and Mika started their venture, Slovak Telecom owned the only radio broadcasting towers and controlled their use.

"Economics and licence unavailability reasons decided us to build up a network of our own broadcasting towers," said Mika. According to him, not only did this solution lower costs but it also made a good investment.

In February 2004, Rádio Expres announced a tender. The sale would pay off all original Rádio Expres investors as well as turn a profit.

Strong investors in Europe and overseas responded to the tender. By summer 2004, the founders had narrowed the selection down to two.

"We decided to sell only to a strong media investor. Price was not the only requirement," said Mika.

Between French company Lagardere, which also operates the Evropa 2 radio station in the Czech Republic, and Emmis Corporation, Rádio Expres selected the latter.

The Emmis media office expects the sale to go through the first quarter of 2005, subject to the approval of the Slovak media regulation organization, Rada pre vysielanie a retransmisiu (Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission).


Few changes expected


Insiders say Rádio Expres listeners should not notice any major changes in their favourite programmes despite the turnover.

According to Mika, Emmis' style of management is similar to that of Rádio Expres.

Emmis (the Hebrew word for "truth") said it had no reason to change the "winning formula" of Rádio Expres. Rádio Expres management is staying on after the acquisition, as well as the station's employees.

Emmis prides itself on creating a work environment where all employees are stockholders. The company's president says that share ownership creates a community of people with an incentive to work as a team.

As director, Mika is waiting for his share to come through, once the sale is complete.

Asked if he would find it difficult to work for Emmis after owning so much of Rádio Expres, he said no.

"[Emmis president] Paul Fiddick is my potential partner. We have spent a lot of time talking about what we can do and what we can expect from each other," said Mika.

Flush from the sale, Mika is looking to invest in new projects. He did not say what they might be.

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