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ProSieben will be sprung from Springer

Regulators demanded mogul sell off web or Bild

BERLIN — In an effort to stave off a final rejection of its bid for Germany’s biggest broadcasting group, Axel Springer has agreed to sell one of ProSiebenSat 1’s leading channels in order to get the greenlight from antitrust and media regulators.

Springer said Wednesday it would sell ProSieben following the takeover of its parent company.

Cartel authorities initially rejected Springer’s bid Jan. 6, but gave it until noon today to meet regulator’s demand that it sell either one of ProSiebenSat 1’s two major webs — Sat.1 or ProSieben — or its flagship daily Bild, the country’s largest newspaper.

A sale of ProSieben also would get the deal approved by the Commission on Concentration in the Media (KEK). The media regulator on Tuesday rejected Springer’s bid, saying the takeover would give the publisher undue influence over public opinion.

But KEK head Dieter Doerr has said the watchdog would greenlight the deal if Springer agreed to sell either ProSieben or Sat.1, although the publisher would have to submit a new application to the org.

A sale of ProSieben is unlikely to go down well with ProSiebenSat 1’s management, however. Sources close to the company have rejected the planned move, arguing it would compromise the integrity of the company and destroy carefully developed synergies within the group.

ProSieben had a total market share of 6.7% last year and 11.7% among its key 14-49 demo. The web increased its revenues in 2005, but saw profits slip 4% in the first nine months of the year to E110.5 million ($134 million), although it still accounted for more than half of ProSiebenSat 1’s pre-tax profit of $246 million.

The pan-European SBS Broadcasting remains a likely candidate, according to local observers. France’s TF1 also has made known its interest in Germany’s TV market.

KEK told Springer Wednesday it would approve the deal only if Springer sold ProSieben prior, not after, the takeover’s finalization, and subject to the web’s complete removal from Seven One Media, ProSiebenSat 1’s marketing division.

Springer said it was working with the other parties involved in the deal to see whether it could carry out the antirust watchdog’s demands “from an economic and legal point of view.”

Springer, Germany’s leading newspaper publisher, agreed in August to buy ProSiebenSat 1 from majority owners Haim Saban, his investment partners and minority shareholders in a deal worth $5 billion.

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