Ante upped Czech TV war

Nova dispute might impact upcoming merger

PRAGUE — In yet another salvo in the ongoing battle for control of Nova TV, the station’s license holder, CET21, abruptly pulled the plug on its program provider, CME, and moved to other facilities to continue broadcasting.

For months, CET21 boss Vladimir Zelezny has been involved in a legal tussle with CME over control of Nova, the top-rated commercial player in the market.

CME stock down

Reacting to the move, shares of CME stock (which trades as CETV) dropped 7% after early-morning trading, until NASDAQ suspended trading at $6.12, shortly before 8 a.m. PST.

The dispute over Nova TV in the Czech Republic and the continuing decline in stock could impact an upcoming merger between CME and its former rival, Euro station group SBS Broadcasting. The two had announced that SBS would be buying the six CME stations for some $615 million in early April.

If the Nova dispute is not resolved and CME stock does not recover, it’s possible that SBS will acquire CME without Nova included in the deal — and for a much lower price.

Impact on merger?

According to a statement by SBS, “The latest development in the continuing dispute in the Czech Republic is not an unexpected turn of events. … (SBS) will continue to monitor the situation in order to assess its impact on the previously announced merger.”

CME has been exploring options for continuing to operate as a broadcaster in the Czech Republic, including the possibility of transferring its operations to satellite.

CME recently applied for registration of the logo NOVAsat, although it apparently has rejected an earlier scheme to distribute free satellite dishes to up to 750,000 Czech homes.

The Czech Broadcasting Council has taken a back seat, saying it would not interfere in business disputes and ordering CME and CET21 to come to a decision on their own.

CME, however, has called for a special council meeting to address the matter.

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