Bauer keen to finalize Kirch deal

Saban makes attractive counter offer

BERLIN — With the shadow of billionaire Haim Saban looming over the proceedings, German publisher Heinrich Bauer is looking to speed up its takeover of bankrupt TV giant Kirch Media.

Company confirmed reports that it wants to finalize negotiations for the acquisition of Kirch Media’s multi-channel broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1 and its vast film library as soon as possible.

Bauer has agreed to buy the Kirch assets for some $2 billion, including $700 million for ProSiebenSat.1 and part of the $1.3 billion in debt attached to the library. Negotiations had snagged on the details of how to structure the new ownership of the library, which is to be a separate holding owned by Bauer and the creditor banks.

However, a deal is in the works to guarantee the film rights shingle a long-term contract to serve as ProSiebenSat.1’s main content provider for a fixed period of time; the setup, which would also make the rights firm the main buyer of Hollywood fare for the broadcaster, was a condition for the takeover of Kirch Media and mirrors the structure that existed under Kirch Media’s former management. Bauer is expected to end up with 51% of the film licensing operation, although negotiations with creditors continue. Bauer declined to say how long talks would last.

Sources close to the negotiations said Bauer has not decided how much it wants to invest in the new licensing firm. Company’s original plan was simply to take over some of the library’s debt, although Kirch creditors have been adamant that Bauer inject money into the library in order to keep it up and running.

Meanwhile, Adam Chesnoff, head of Saban Capital Group, met with Kirch Media’s management and creditors Tuesday and Wednesday to reportedly present a detailed offer which more or less matched the Bauer bid. Saban is said to be looking to take over the Kirch business with U.S. and European partners.

A Bauer spokesman said the company is not worried about the Saban offer, adding that it would not affect its ongoing negotiations with Kirch’s creditors.

Similarly, sources close to Kirch considered it doubtful that Saban had a real chance to upset Bauer’s acquisition, although observers did note that Saban’s persistence would well have alarmed Bauer execs.

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