Canal+ selling Premiere stake

BERLIN — Canal Plus announced Wednesday that its board has given the greenlight for the Kirch Group to buy its 37.5% stake in German paybox Premiere.

Authorized at the same time was Canal Plus’ acquisition of the Kirch Group’s 45% share in the Italian paybox Telepiu. Contracts are expected to be signed within the next few days.

An announcement made by the Kirch Group on Monday that it would buy out the Canal Plus share and split Premiere 50-50 with its erstwhile rival CLT-Ufa was a sure indication that a deal was imminent. But Canal Plus didn’t confirm the deal until Wednesday.

“Acquiring the Canal Plus share is a precondition for realizing our plans,” said a Kirch Group spokesperson following the announcement.

In the Italian market, the outcome of the sale of the Telepiu share should create some waves. It is expected that Canal Plus won’t hold on to its Telepiu stake but instead will sell all or part of it to Italian investors. The Italian government and national broadcasters in Italy are pressing for this scenario.

Canal Plus president Pierre Lescure has said the company will not hold on to the entire stake in Telepiu and has already started negotiations with possible acquirers, namely pubcaster RAI, telco Stet and Silvio Berlusconi’s Mediaset.

In France, Canal Plus’ decision to get out of Premiere meant the paybox’s stock rose 5.5% at Tuesday’s close. The stock continued to rise and outperformed the market Wednesday.

Canal Plus will not entirely exit Germany as it retains Multithematiques, a partnership with TCI. In addition, Canal Plus will likely furnish channels for the joint Kirch and Bertelsmann digital platform.

With reports from Nancy Tartaglione and Cecilia Zecchinelli.

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