Finland's Sanoma teams with De Mol, Vandenhaute, Watte

Pan-European broadcasting group ProSiebenSat.1 has agreed to sell its media assets in Belgium and the Netherlands to a consortium headed by Finnish conglom Sanoma Corp. in a deal valued at €1.23 billion ($1.77 billion).

Dutch media mogul John de Mol’s Talpa Holding partnered with Sanoma in the Netherlands to take over ProSiebenSat.1’s TV and print operations, including webs SBS6, Net 5 and Veronica, as well as Veronica magazine, the country’s biggest-selling TV guide.

On the acquisition of Belgium’s Dutch-language TV outlets VT4 and VijfTV, Sanoma is teaming with media group Corelio and Wouter Vandenhaute and Eric Watte, the founders of Woestijnvis, a TV production company in Flanders.

The acquired companies’ net sales totaled $583 million in 2010 and their operating profit reached some $159 million.

The deal, signed Wednesday, does not include ProSiebenSat.1’s production operation in the Netherlands and Belgium, which will remain part of the Munich-based conglom.

The Dutch deal is subject to merger clearance.

The Belgian and Dutch media assets were part of SBS Broadcasting, which ProSiebenSat.1 acquired in 2007 for $4.5 billion.

ProSiebenSat.1’s bottom line has been significantly boosted by improved ad revenue, but it’s weighed down by the heavy debt stemming from the acquisition of SBS.

The sale is part of a strategic review of ProSiebenSat.1’s Northern European operations to reduce that debt.

The broadcaster will keep its business in Scandinavia, which Swedish media group Modern Times Group and Discovery Communications had been eyeing.

For Sanoma, the deal is a major growth spurt.

“With this significant TV acquisition, Sanoma will become a leading media player in the Netherlands and considerably stronger in Belgium,” said Sanoma CEO Harri-Pekka Kaukonen.

Sanoma will hold 67% of the Dutch SBS assets with Talpa taking 33%. In Belgium, Sanoma, Corelio and Vandenhaute and Watte will each hold 33%.

Representing a 27% share of Belgium’s Dutch-speaking ad market, the SBS channels will be part of the De Vijver holding company, headed by Vandenhaute and also comprise Vandenhaute and Watte’s production company Woestijnvis (DesertFishes) and weekly magazine Humo. Sanoma, Corelio, plus Vandenhaute and Watte have equal shares in De Vijver.

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