Toppers talk back

ProSiebenSat.1 exex respond to buyout speculation

BERLIN — Execs at ProSiebenSat.1 have greeted the growing interest in Kirch Media’s multi-channel broadcasting group with a positive note but appear ready to play hardball with investors looking for a bargain buy.

Michael Jaffe, chairman of ProSiebenSat.1’s supervisory board, also denied that discussions with European investment group Permira for a possible sale of the company were under way.

“There are no discussions with Permira — it’s all pure speculation,” Jaffe told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung in an interview published Thursday. “The fact that there is great interest is delightful. It’s much preferable to have many potential suitors knocking at the door. The bride is becoming more beautiful and more expensive by the day.”

Jaffe and ProSiebenSat.1 CEO Urs Rohner were responding to mounting reports of possible new bids from Permira, Haim Saban, whose initial offer was rejected last month after he failed to meet necessary deadlines, and others.

Permira, which took over former Kirch pay TV web Premiere earlier this year, is seen as a possible frontrunner in a contest for ProSiebenSat.1 with Premiere chief Georg Kofler a likely candidate to head the broadcaster.

But Rohner doesn’t think so: “Premiere has to first get its own house in order. As far as I recall, it’s still not making a profit. Normally it’s not the tail that wags the dog but the other way around.”

Jaffe reiterated that the plan of the Kirch creditor banks to invest up to 300 million euros ($344 million) in ProSiebenSat.1 would increase the value of the broadcaster.

Jaffe also said things had changed from a half a year ago, when many investors looking to make a bargain had hoped the creditors, under growing pressure, would sell ProSiebenSat.1 and the Kirch film library at increasingly cheaper prices.

“That was faulty speculation. The price is now on the way up. We are not under any time pressure and will no longer allow auditors to stroll through the company and disturb the operational business.”

He added, however, that any attractive offers that come in would be passed on to Kirch Media, “where a decision will be made quickly.”

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