News wants coin for Russia

EBRD board will consider the $130 mil loan next week

TOKYO — News Corp. is seeking more than $100 million from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to fund an aggressive acquisition spree for its Russian business.

Financial Times story says the development bank has been approached by News Corp. to help finance several takeovers by News Outdoor Russia, already the country’s largest outdoor advertising business.

The EBRD board is due to consider the $130 million secured loan at a meeting next week. Bank documents say the loan will be used to facilitate creation of a pan- regional outdoor advertising network spanning several former Soviet republics by the company through acquisition of several local outdoor operators.

News Corp, which moved into the Russian advertising market more than four years ago, has decided to expand the business after Murdoch ruled out deals in the riskier broadcasting and publishing sectors.

The proposed financing reflects the development bank’s willingness to facilitate takeovers rather than focusing on modernizing Russia’s infrastructure.

By the end of last year, the bank had signed 210 investments in Russia totaling $7.6 billion — most earmarked for the private sector.

News Corp. hopes to challenge the dominance of rivals Clear Channel, JC Decaux and Viacom in western Europe’s outdoor advertising industry by building a leading position in the east.

Russia’s outdoor advertising sector is expected to consolidate following new tax rules introduced last summer, imposing billboard levies that could force smaller operators to sell out.