September 24, 2019 / 2:13 PM / 23 days ago

Czech PPF the last remaining bidder for broadcaster CME: report

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Investment group PPF, owned by the Czech Republic’s richest man Petr Kellner, is the last remaining bidder to buy broadcaster Central European Media Enterprises (CME) (CETV.O) (CETV.PR) from AT&T, Czech news website hlidacipes.org reported on Tuesday.

AT&T (T.N) holds 64% of CME’s common stock but effectively controls 75% of the company when preference shares are factored in. It inherited CME after its merger with Time Warner.

Hlidacipes.org, citing unnamed sources, reported AT&T was seeking around 47 billion crowns ($2 billion) for the company.

A PPF spokeswoman said the company did not comment on market speculation. A CME spokesman also said the company did not comment on rumors or speculation.

Kellner’s PPF owns assets ranging from lenders to real estate and telecommunications in Europe and Asia, including Czech telecom operator O2 Czech Republic (SPTT.PR) and global consumer lender Home Credit.

If a sale were to happen, it would be one of the biggest in the Czech media market as CME owns leading commercial broadcaster TV Nova.

CME, which operates TV stations in five central and eastern European countries, has seen its profit rise in recent years and has cut into a debt pile that once stood above $1 billion but now is at a net $633 million.

In July it raised its core profit forecast for the second time this year, predicting a 14-16% year-on-year rise in operating income before depreciation and amortization for the full-year 2019. It posted OIBDA of $222.7 million in 2018 on revenue of $703.9 million.

In March, CME launched a strategic review, saying the sale of part or all of the company was among the options but it has not detailed the process since then.

CME shares rose 3.8% in Prague on Tuesday and have gained almost 75% since the start of the year.

Reporting by Jason Hovet and Robert Muller; Editing by Emelia Sithole-Matarise and David Evans

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