Taurus teeters as loans called in

Exex mulling bankruptcy filing as Kofler talks new terms

COLOGNE — Kirch Group umbrella company Taurus Holding could be the latest part of the fallen Teutonic TV and rights giant to file for bankruptcy after banks Monday called in €750 million ($690 million) in loans to insolvent sister division Kirch Pay TV.

A crucial Kirch Pay TV creditors meeting is skedded for June 5, when CEO Georg Kofler will negotiate new terms with Bayerische Landesbank and Hypo-Vereinsbank. Insolvency administrator Joseph Fuechsl says another $100 million loan is necessary to keep the division going.

That could be the “certain circumstance” quoted by Rupert Murdoch’s pay TV operator BSkyB as grounds for an early execution of its put option on its 22% stake in Kirch Pay TV to Taurus, which could break the holding company.

The option, worth $1.2 billion, is not due to expire until October. Taurus nixed BSkyB’s attempts to return the stake for a refund on May 20, after the paybox cited unspecified “special circumstances.”

Taurus is examining the legality of BSkyB’s claim, a Kirch spokesman told Daily Variety. He conceded that Taurus was considering whether the conditions for a bankruptcy filing had been met, but added that this move would “not come about in the next days.”

Meanwhile, core TV and rights division Kirch Media, which filed for bankruptcy last month, has prepared an information package for the sale of its subsidiaries that it intends to distribute to potential buyers this week. Some 50 buyers are interested, including large German media groups and Hollywood studios.