CME’s Nova buyout all but closed

Co. also acquires Krsak's CET 21 stake

PRAGUE — The completion of Central European Media Enterprises’ buyout of the Czech Republic’s leading terrestrial web, Nova TV, was all but closed last week for $898 million.

The purchase price included $216.4 million in cash to exercise the call option to buy Czech financial group PPF’s remaining 15% stake in TV Nova.

CME, controlled by U.S. cosmetics heir Ronald Lauder, also bought out film director Peter Krsak’s stake in Nova license holder CET 21.

Company is still awaiting final transfer of two 1.25% interests in CET 21 plus approval from the Council of the Czech Republic for Radio and Television Broadcasting.

Purchase, announced in December, restores to CME control of the station it founded in 1995 and lost in a licensing battle with station topper Vladimir Zelezny in 1999.

The Czech Republic was forced to pay $355 million in damages for failing to protect CME’s rights.

CME has been enjoying its revenge this year, axing all players associated with Zelezny’s regime.

Final completion was expected in the fall but came through earlier than expected.

Though TV Nova’s programming is accessible to the tiny 12-million Czech market, its aud share, which has reached 70%, is one of Europe’s best and it generated $99.4 million profits on $220.4 million revenue last year.

Thus, it’s been the apple of many would-be buyers’ eyes for years — but only CME, with its painful lesson in the Czech marketplace, was able to forge a workable acquisition plan capable of braving the Byzantine ownership, license and regulatory issues in force at the station.

CME’s other properties in Central and Eastern Europe include stations in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia and Ukraine.

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