Nordic giant adds MTV3 to empire

Bonnier buys Finland's largest commercial channel

AMSTERDAM — The shareholders of ALMA Media, Finland’s second largest media outfit, have voted to sell its broadcast division, including Finland’s largest commercial channel MTV3, to a soon to be formed Finnish joint venture between the Bonnier group and Swedish investment outfit Proventus Industrier.

The sale will include a 24% stake in TV4 in Sweden. Bonnier currently owns a 29% stake in TV4; Proventus a 15% stake.

MTV3, including its subsidiary Sub TV and Radio Nova, is valued at Euro 460 million ($599 million).

The Bonnier Group’s vertically integrated companies make it the largest media entertainment outfit in the Nordic territories. Companies run the gamut from film, TV, radio, music, internet to print.

Proventus is a 20 year old equity investment firm which only this month [January] bought up its stakes in TV4 and an 8.5% stake in Alma.

Both Bonnier and Proventus are interested in the expansion of TV distribution across the Nordic territories, and the buy-up of MTV3 gives them control of two of the strongest commercial broadcast properties in the region.

TV4 in Sweden is also a bidder on the license for the soon to be privatised national commercial channel TV2 Denmark, along with Orkla, one of Norway’s largest congloms. Orkla owns a string of newspapers across Scandi, including in Denmark.

While that license is likely to go to home grown player Egmont, should it somehow end up with TV4, Bonnier has the means of linking its production interests — among them Svensk Filmindustri — to its distribution, and creating a very profitable TV production and distribution empire.

The vote marks the conclusion of the hottest media fireworks in Nordic history. In December Nordic media giant Schibsted began buying up shares of TV4, then ponied up a $945 million takeover bid for Alma Media.

Bonnier, which at 33% owned the largest share in Alma, as well as its 29% stake in TV4, went to the mat. Proventus, which moved to buy up shares of TV4 and Alma Media in the 11th hour this month, was largely considered to be in the Bonnier camp. It is highly likely that Proventus will end up selling its stakes in a few years.

Under the terms of the offer, Bonnier and Proventus would create a new and as yet unnamned Finnish entity housing MTV3 and its subsidiaries, probably by early April.

The plan is conditional on passage of Finnish competition authorities and the retention of Finnish TV and radio concessions.

Bonnier and Proventus, in turn, would sell back all of its shares to a soon to be formed company [April] to be called Alma Nova, which will house print and other non-broadcast companies currently in the Alma fold.

MTV3, along with TV4, TV2 Danmark and TV2 Norway, are the most profitable commercial outfits in the Nordic territories.

Both Schibsted and Egmont own one third of TV2 Norway, along with Norwegian press giant A-Pressen.

While Norwegian media laws forbid any one entity owning more than one third of a TV channel, a major struggle over own-ership of the channel in the near future is not being ruled out.