Bulgarian regulator blocks sale of MTG's Bulgarian Nova Broadcasting to PPF

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SOFIA, July 19 (Reuters) - Bulgaria’s anti-monopoly regulator said on Thursday it had blocked the sale of the Modern Times Group (MTG)’s Bulgarian Nova Broadcasting media group to the Czech Republic-based investment company PPF Group.

The 185 million euro ($214.77 million) deal was announced in February with Sweden-based MTG saying the proceeds would be used for investment in its Nordic entertainment, studios and global digital entertainment businesses.

The Commission for Protection of Competition said in a statement that the significant number of media outlets owned by Nova and PPF will give them a competitive advantage on the media services market, which might incentivise them to increase their prices, change the terms of existing contracts or restrict access to the market.

Sweden’s MTG owns 95 percent of Nova Broadcasting, Bulgaria’s largest commercial media group with seven TV channels and 19 online businesses. Luxembourg-registered Eastern European Media Holdings holds the remaining 5 percent.

“MTG is surprised by the decision and will review it further before deciding on the next steps to be taken,” MTG said in a statement.

PPF owns no media outlets in Bulgaria at present.

A spokeswoman for PPF Group, controlled by Czech businessman Petr Kellner, said the company had not received the decision yet and therefore could not comment.

The ruling can be appealed before the Supreme Administrative Court within 14 days. ($1 = 0.8614 euros) (Angel Krasimirov in Sofia, Jan Lopatka in Prague and Helena Soderpalm in Stockholm)