The Chinese energy and investment group, CEFC ,has allegedly teamed up with the financial group Penta to purchase media group Central European Media Enterprises (CME). It unites several TV stations in six central and eastern European countries, including the most watched private broadcasters in Slovakia and the Czech Republic: Markíza and Nova, the Sme daily reported.
CEFC is already known in Slovakia because it controls a 5-percent share in the J&T Finance Group. The Chinese have received permission from the European Central Bank to increase to 50 percent.
J&T Finance Group owns Poštová Banka, the third biggest bank in the country in terms of the numbers of clients. It ranks fifth nation-wide in assets.
The first to report on the planned purchase was the Reuters newswire, referring to three sources familiar with the matter.
One of the sources said privately-held CEFC is leading the consortium and is expected to provide the bulk of the financing in acquiring CME, which could be worth around €500 million.
The sum came as a surprise due to speculations that CME’s current owner, US company Time Warner, was asking for €1-2 billion for European televisions, Sme wrote.
“We don’t comment on speculations,” Penta’s spokesperson Gabriel Tóth told Sme.
The transaction was not surprising as Penta has been talking about its interest in Markíza since 2014. In the same year, it entered the media business and has already bought the Plus 7 Dní weekly and economic weekly Trend. It also controls a minority share in the publishing house Petit Press, which issues Sme and co-owns The Slovak Spectator.
Slovak laws prohibit cross ownership of the media, which means that the publisher of print media cannot own TV or radio broadcasters. This, however, can and often is avoided, Sme wrote.
The only thing preventing Penta from purchasing Markíza is its ownership of a minority share in Petit Press. Before the planned purchase, it would have to sell the share or transfer it to a mediator, according to the daily.
The Mediálne.sk website, meanwhile, reported that if CEFC and Penta really bought CME, it would lead to a significant concentration of the media in Slovakia as all big media outlets would be connected.
Penta and CEFC would own Markíza, while CEFC and J&T would finance the JOJ Media House, where private broadcaster JOJ belongs. J&T probably has influence on radio stations like Jemné, Anténa Rock and Vlna, while the biggest billboard space providers Akzent Media and BigBoard are a part of JOJ Media House. At the same time, Penta finances and controls News & Media Holding, a publishing house that issues the Plus Jeden Deň daily, Plus 7 Dní and Trend.
Moreover, Penta has announced recently that it will purchase all magazines currently issued by Ringier Axel Springer.
Disclaimer: Penta financial group has a 40-percent share in Petit Press, the co-owner of The Slovak Spectator.