Bauer close to wrapping Kirch deal

Co. must make offer to ProSieben shareholders

BERLIN — The takeover of Kirch Media’s assets by German publisher Heinrich Bauer could be finalized as early as this month, although a final shareholding structure depends on fellow publisher Axel Springer.

Bauer has agreed to pay $2 billion for Kirch’s assets, including a 52.5% stake in broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1 and the company’s vast film library.

Springer has an option to increase its existing stake in ProSiebenSat.1 from 11.5% to 28%, which would leave Bauer with a minority share. Bauer, however, is expected to insist on control over the voting stock in order to gain control of the company, 36% of which is publicly listed.

According to the Financial Times Deutschland, Bauer is set to pay $700 million for Kirch’s 52.5% stake in ProSiebenSat.1 and separately assume some $1.3 billion in debt related to Kirch Media’s film library business.

ProSiebenSat.1 is expected to ink an output deal with the film rights division.

According to German law, Bauer has to make an offer to all ProSiebenSat.1 shareholders as part of its majority takeover offer. The FTD reported that the publisher would likely offer $6.40 per share; company stock is currently at $6.27.

ProSiebenSat.1 topper Urs Rohner told company employees Wednesday that he expected the takeover to be completed before the start of the Christmas holidays. Rohner also denied rumors that his days as ProSiebebSat.1 chief were numbered, adding that he would remain in charge of the group.

Meanwhile, in an effort to boost ratings, ProSiebenSat.1’s money-losing news channel N24 is looking to revamp its programming with the acquisition of a content package from Discovery that includes 1,600 hours of documentary fare.

“The new programming structure allows us even greater strength in our coverage of news and business. We are confident that we’ll be able to quickly increase our growing audience numbers,” said Claus Larass, head of N24 and ProSiebenSat.1 news programming exec.

N24 is looking to make documentary programming its third mainstay after news and finance in order to boost its market share from its current 0.2% to 0.4% among 14 to 49-year-old auds.

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