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ProSieben bidder out

Private equity investor had joined Apax, Goldman Sachs consortium

As the auction for Haim Saban’s ProSiebenSat 1 shifts into high gear, another potential buyer has pulled out due to the high price of Germany’s biggest commercial TV group.

European private equity investor Cinven, which had joined the Apax and Goldman Sachs consortium, withdrew from the auction for a 50.5% stake in the group owned by Saban and his investment partners.

The Financial Times Deutschland, citing a source close to the sale, reported Cinven’s pullout was due to the high asking price for the stake.

Saban hopes to sell the stake for some E3 billion ($4 billion) and is fielding offers from Turkish media giant Dogan and a consortium consisting of Permira and KKR, as well as Apax and Goldman Sachs.

Company is in the due diligence phase, which provides interested buyers the opportunity to peruse through its books. Binding bids for ProSiebenSat 1, which controls five free-to-air channels, are due Tuesday, with a sale expected to be announced by year’s end.

Saban and his investment backers, including Thomas H. Lee, Bain Capital, Hellman & Friedman, Providence Equity, Quadrangle and Alpine Equity, are said to be asking at least $4 billion — almost four times what they reportedly paid for the broadcaster in 2003. It’s also well above the $3.3 billion they had agreed on with German publisher Axel Springer in January; that deal was ultimately torpedoed by German regulators.

Springer, which still owns 12% of ProSiebenSat 1, has since expanded abroad and recently inked a $497 million deal with Dogan for the purchase of a 25% stake in Dogan TV, which owns Kanal D, Star TV and CNN Turk.

ProSiebenSat 1 pulls in roughly 30% of the key 14-49 demographic in the country.

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