RTL takes over Dutch, Hungarian units

TV group consolidates RTL Nederland, RTL Klub

BERLIN — Hot on the heels of its buyout of Croatian broadcaster RTL Hrvatska this week, RTL Group on Thursday announced two major acquisitions in the Netherlands and Hungary.

Europe’s biggest broadcasting group is exercising a put option for the full takeover of Dutch operation RTL Nederland by buying back more than a quarter held by John de Mol’s Talpa Media Holding.

It also acquired from Hungarian media company IKO Group 31% of RTL Klub, giving it a 98% share in the Hungarian channel, as well as 100% of a portfolio of cable channels Cool, Film Plus, Film Plus 2, Reflektor, Prizma, Sorozat Plus and Muzsika TV. Bank Sal Oppenheim owns the remaining 2% in RTL Klub.

The latest moves underscore an increasing focus on consolidation at Europe’s biggest broadcasting and entertainment group.

The Dutch deal presented itself after Talpa agreed to buy the Dutch SBS assets owned by ProSiebenSat.1 with Finnish conglom Sanoma Corp.

De Mol won clearance from the Dutch competition watchdog last week to buy ProSiebenSat.1’s SBS TV and print operations, which include three channels, provided Talpa sell its rival media assets.

In exercising its option, RTL Group will buy back the 26.3% in RTL Nederland held by Talpa. In exchange, Talpa will acquire a number of radio assets from RTL, including 100% of the shares in Radio 538. It will also take over Radio 10 Gold and Slam FM, which were recently acquired by RTL Nederland. Talpa will reimburse RTL Nederland for the purchase prices paid. The entire transaction is set to be finalized in 2012.

Talpa acquired the stake in RTL Nederland, which controls five channels, in 2007 as part of a content rights deal inked between de Mol and RTL Group that gave the Luxembourg-based TV giant access to formats developed by Talpa; the put option was part of the deal.

“Following last week’s decision of the Dutch competition authority, RTL Group has decided to exercise its previously agreed option to get back the remaining shareholding in RTL Nederland, which is our third biggest family of TV channels and achieves outstanding ratings and results,” said Elmar Heggen, RTL Group’s chief financial officer and head of its corporate center. “At the same time we’re looking forward to continuing the proven co-operation with John de Mol’s creative unit in new ways.”

Commenting on the Hungarian acquisition, which is subject to regulatory approval, Andreas Rudas, RTL’s exec VP of regional operations and business development for Central and Eastern Europe, said: “This transaction gives RTL Group the opportunity to implement its tried-and-tested strategy in Hungary. We will gain full control of our strong flagship RTL Klub and can now rapidly build a complementary family of channels.

“Given the ongoing audience fragmentation in the Hungarian TV market, this is essential to remain the leading television company of Hungary.”

Rudas added that RTL would continue its co-operation in Hungary with IKO Group in the areas of production.

IKO topper Tamas Rakosi will remain on the board at Magyar RTL.

RTL Group announced on July 25 that it was acquiring the 26% share it did not already own in Croatian TV unit RTL Hrvatska, which operates two channels.

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