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CME snaps up Bulgarian channels

$172 million buy will close in two weeks

PRAGUE — Expanding its rapid growth in Central and Eastern Europe, Ron Lauder-owned Central European Media Enterprises announced Tuesday that it will acquire an 80% stake in two Bulgarian television channels, terrestrial TV2 and sports cabler Ring TV.

The $172 million cash buy from Top Tone Media Holdings will close in two weeks. It is tied to CME’s consulting pact with Bulgarian media mogul Krassimir Guergov, who advises on development of the nine-month-old TV2 and on Ring TV and the other CME properties in the 7.6 million population market.

CME topper Michael Garin called the buy, the first move into new territory in three years, “an important next step in the continuing expansion of our free-to-air broadcasting operations in Central and Eastern Europe.”

What’s more, he said, it “demonstrates our ability to continue our growth strategy within the region” and TV2 Group’s national terrestrial coverage and niche cable channels fit into CME’s multi-channel business model.

Bulgarian net TV advertising market was valued at $168 million in 2007 and is expected to grow 20% between 2008 and 2012.

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