Kirch drama goes on

Bauer close to finalizing; Saban still in it

BERLIN — Execs at bankrupt Kirch Media said Monday that its sale to German publisher Heinrich Bauer could be finalized within 14 days, but admitted Bauer still could face problems with media regulators.

Insolvency administrator Hans-Joachim Ziems also confirmed that former Kirch Media shareholders, including Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Lehman Brothers, are still interested in bidding for Kirch’s TV broadcasting group ProSiebenSat 1 and its film library.

Ziems played down recent talks with billionaire producer Haim Saban, who’s looking to cut out Bauer and swing a last-minute deal for Kirch Media.

He said Saban’s initial offer was inferior to Bauer’s and said last week’s meeting with Saban had had little impact. “It’s not just the price. The framework is just as important.”

‘Constructive’ talks

But sources close to the negotiations told Daily Variety the discussions with Saban were “serious and constructive” and some of the creditor banks remained interested in Saban’s offer, which, like Bauer’s bid, is said to be in the 42 billion ($2.17 billion) range.

“Saban sees this as a strategic, long-term investment, and he’s ready to invest and develop the film library,” the insider said.

State-owned bank Bayern LB faces a major hit from Kirch’s bankruptcy. It is putting away some $2.2 billion as a provision for contingent loan losses, half of it to guarantee against a potential loss of loans to Kirch.

Cash from a Saban deal may, therefore, be more attractive than a Bauer takeover, which is being financed by fellow creditor HypoVereinsbank.

Bauer may face problems from regulators due to its interests in a rival broadcaster and its control of the TV magazine biz. A review of the takeover by regulators and antitrust watchdogs could take two to four months, Ziems reckoned, adding the acquisition would not be complete before May.

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