Mouse evicting SBS

Scandi b'caster stake going on public block

Just two weeks after the Walt Disney Co. said it would “explore the potential sale” of its 20% stake in Scandinavian Broadcasting System SA, the Mouse House filed Thursday to sell its holding in a public offering.

Disney filed documents with the Securities & Exchange Commission to sell its 2.7 million shares in SBS, and 500,000 shares received on the exercise of stock warrants. SBS closed down 87¢ Thursday at $28, valuing Disney’s stake at $89 million.

Disney said Feb. 23 it had hired Wall Street investment bank Bear Stearns & Co. to “advise on disposition alternatives for the SBS stake,” but a spokesman for Disney said Thursday the company had decided almost immediately to sell the stock in a public offering but needed time to prepare the documents.

Wall Streeters said Disney could change its mind at any point, right up to the pricing of the offering, and sell the stock to a single buyer if one appeared with the right offer.

Scandinavian CEO Harry Evans Sloan could not be reached for comment Thursday, but he is likely to be happy with this outcome. While SBS wants to ensure it has programming supply arrangements, Sloan is believed to feel the broadcaster doesn’t need equity partnerships with its suppliers.

Disney said in a statement last month that it “concluded that the ownership of this stake is not consistent with Disney’s primary focus in international broadcasting, which is to develop and manage Disney- and ESPN-branded programming services in major markets.”

SBS in contrast, operates TV stations in countries including Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands. Disney noted at the time that it “continues to have confi-dence in SBS management and its strategy.”

Indeed, SBS has lately started making money and its stock has been rallying in recent months, rising from about $13 a year ago to its current price of $28.

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