Pub group eyes stake in Premiere

Bertelsmann open to Murdoch investment

BERLIN — German newspaper publishing group Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung (WAZ) may take a stake in German pay TV web Premiere, Bertelsmann chairman Mark Woessner said in an interview with Hamburg weekly Die Woche.

“We are working on a partnership with WAZ,” Woessner told the paper. WAZ, said the exec, “would be closest to us.” Through its 10% stake in Bertelsmann-affiliated CLT-Ufa, WAZ already owns a small piece of Premiere.

Woessner denied rumors that Bertelsmann opposes cooperation with media tycoon Rupert Murdoch, who is said to be interested in acquiring a stake in Premiere. “In principle, there is room” for a partnership with Murdoch, Woessner said.

Planned agreement

As part of a German digital pay TV merger agreement, Premiere shareholders CLT-Ufa and Leo Kirch planned to buy out Canal Plus’s 37.5% stake in the network and to raise their shares to 50% each. But the European Commission vetoed the proposed alliance in May, leaving the Canal Plus share open to potential investors.

Since the announcement of the EC’s ban, Kirch and CLT-Ufa have applied to German antitrust authorities for permission to up their stakes in Premiere as originally planned. But German officials have said the applications are likely to be denied, making a search for additional partners in Premiere increasingly likely.

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