After Rompetrol, the Chinese want Pro TV too?

A.S. (translated by Cosmin Ghidoveanu)
English Section /

After Rompetrol, the Chinese want Pro TV too?

Central European Media (CME), the owner of Pro TV, is currently in negotiations to sell the four TV stations it still holds in Central and Eastern Europe, according to Echo 24, which quotes several concerned sources.

Echo 24 claims that Czech television station TV Nova will be sold bundled with TV Markiza of Slovakia and with the stations in Romania and Bulgaria. "The price for all these TVs will exceed 1 billion dollars", the Czech site says.

The portal mentions: "Chinese investors, represented by the CEFC group, who recently left Empresa Media, have not lost their appetite for an influential media purchase".

"We do not comment on speculation concerning our company", Pavel Bednaø, the spokesperson of the CEFC, told a Slovakian publication.

Echo 24 says that the PPF group of Petr Kellner, who previously held shares in TV Nova may also be interested in this sale.

The portal mentioned other potential buyers: "Penta, who provided financial services to CME, has also announced its interest in TV Nova. Penta owns the VLM publishing house, which publishes regional magazines and newspapers. The name of Andrej Babis and that of his company are also being mentioned in relation to this transaction".

On July 10th, Central European Media Enterprises announced the sale of the operations in Croatia (Nova TV) and Slovenia (POP TV) to Slovenia Broadband S.r r.l., a subsidiary of United Group B.V. The transaction is set to complete by the end of the year, subject to approval from regulators.

The purchasing price paid cash was 230 million Euros (262.5 million dollars), and the earnings will be used to pay off a loan of 250.8 million Euros due in 2018.

CME recently estimated that this year, the operating profit before depreciation and amortization will increase 13-17% at constant exchange rates. The company recently announced that it intends to use this year's growth to start reducing part of its 1 billion dollars debt.

CME's portfolio in Romania includes: Pro TV - the leader of Romanian TV networks, Pro X, Pro Gold, Pro Cinema, Pro 2, MTV România and Pro TV Internaţional.

In 2016, the Pro TV Group had a turnover of 172.9 million dollars, representing an increase of 11.3%, at constant exchange rates, over 2015.

In 2016, TV network Pro TV had the biggest market share (25%) in the prime-time.

In 2016, CME had a turnover of 638.013 million dollars.

At the end of last year, American US conglomerate AT&T announced that it has reached an agreement to buy media giant Time Warner Inc, for 85 billion dollars, according to Wall Street Journal. Time Warner is present on the Central and Eastern European market through Central European Media Enterprises (CME), the parent company of Pro TV.

In 2011, Time Warner bought from Czech fund PPF Investments a block of 5.5% of the shares of Central European Media Enterprises (CME), for over 60 million dollars, which increased its stake to 34.4%.

Chinese-based CEFC, indirect owners in Rompetrol Rafinare as well

In December 2016, the agreement was signed between Kazakh company KMG and CEFC for the sale of the 51% stake in the KMGI group, which is the majority shareholder of Rompetrol Rafinare (48%), in which the Romanian state holds 44.69%.

The holding of KMG and CEFC in the new KMGI joint-venture will be 49%, and 51%, respectively. Chinese company CEFC announced, in May 2016, that it would pay 680 million dollars to acquire 51% of the shares of KMGI, the former Rompetrol Group, and has committed to invest at least 3 billion dollars in the next five years.

In September, CEFC China Energy announced it would pay 9.1 billion dollars for a stake of 14.16% of the investments of Russian oil giant Rosneft from a consortium made up of Swiss-based Glencore and investment fund Qatar Investment Authority.

The international media claims that Rosneft is by far the biggest and most influential Russian company, with close ties to Kremlin. Having access to the reserves and refining capabilities of Rosneft is an important step in the strategy of CEFC to become an important player on the international energy market.

FT: "Rise of CEFC - tied to the political growth of Chinese president Xi Jinping"

"An obscure company, with ties with the Army of the People's Chinese Republic, came out as the main buyer of assets in the former Soviet bloc, strengthening the relations between Beijing and Moscow", according to an article recently published by Financial Times, which mentions: "The rise of CEFC China Energy of Shanghai occurred along with China's economic assault in Central Asia and Eastern Europe, amid cooperation with Russia, in issues such as disputes over the Asian islands or the conflict in Syria".

According to FT, CEFC is not a regular private company, as its CEO, YE Jianming, is sponsoring a pro-Chinese working group, with ties to retired military intelligence officers and does business with people from China's military elite.

FT claims that the rise of CEFC is tied to the political rise of Chinese president Xi Jinping: "The company's global level deals have been in lockstep with the state visits of the Chinese president.

For instance, this year, shortly after American president met with Donald Trump Xi Jinping, the CEFC bought 20% of New York-based brokerage firm Cowen Group. (...)

But the biggest focus has been on the former Soviet bloc. Prior to Xi Jinping's visit in the Czech Republic, in 2016, CEFC bought Czech assets worth 1.5 billion dollars, including soccer club Slavia Prague, a brewer, the Renaissance buildings, a steel factory and a media business, (ed. note: Empresa Media), owned by a former tourism minister. The group exercised his option to sell the media business this month".

According to FT, CEFC also owns a financial services firm in Slovakia and had talks on creating a bank in Georgia, where it is also considering the creation of an industrial park. In China it has built an oil storage unit on the Hainan island, a business which normally isn't available to private companies, the publication further states.

Despite its expansion, CEFC hasn't worked with many consultants on an international level, aside from those of Lazard in the Cowen Group transaction, while the rest of the businesses had internal consultants, according to FT, which further writes: "At the end of March, the CEFC had assets of 25 billion dollars and a rather large debt, of 112 billion Yuan, (16.9 billion dollars), according to a report by United Credit Ratings. In spite of that, the ratings firm increased the rating of the group from AA to AAA".

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