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Brits Dyke, Ball elected to ProSiebenSat 1 board

Move signals further internationalization for co.

BERLIN — Shareholders of Haim Saban’s broadcasting group ProSiebenSat 1 elected former BBC topper Greg Dyke as well as former BSkyB chief Tony Ball to its supervisory board Friday.

The appointments of Dyke, who was ousted from the Beeb in January following publication of the Hutton Report criticizing its coverage in the run-up to last year’s Iraq war, and Ball, who left BSkyB in September, signal a further internationalization for the company, once the core division of Leo Kirch’s media empire.

Ball is seen as a valuable asset in view of the group’s tentative plans to enter the pay TV market. During Ball’s reign, BSkyB nearly doubled its subscriber base to 7 million.

ProSiebenSat 1 topper Guillaume de Posch described pay TV as a “strategic option” for the free-to-air multi-channel group. De Posch added, however, that the company would not rush into any new pay TV project nor would it engage in “experiments.” The broadcaster is among a number of possible buyers for three digital channels carried on Teutonic pay platform Premiere.

Despite a marked rise in the group’s share price, Saban and ProSiebenSat 1’s management were met with sharp criticism from shareholders, who accused Saban of having undue influence on the management. As supervisory board chairman, Saban is not allowed to have a say in the company’s management.

De Posch countered that ProSiebenSat 1 was run solely by its executive board and sought to allay shareholders’ worries that Saban would seek a quick sale of the company. Saban’s involvement in ProSiebenSat 1 is a “long-term engagement,” de Posch said.

In addition, the broadcaster has completed its debt restructuring and refinancing plan, inking a x475 million ($574.1 million) loan with Deutsche Bank and JPMorgan and announcing plans for a $181.3 million bond issue. The new capital comes on top of the $340.8 million ProSiebenSat 1 raised last month by floating 24 million new shares.

The capital increase will be used to pay off an outstanding $402 million bond set to mature in 2006, while the revolving bank loan with Deutsche and JPMorgan will be used to lower the company’s debt from its current $817 million to $483.4 million by year’s end.

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