The European edition ofM&A Replay presents a wrap-up of recent European media and communicationsdeal announcements, completions and updates.
* Russia'sJSC Gazprom-Media Holdingacquired anadditional 7.5% holding in NationalMedia Group for 11.12 billion Russian rubles, Broadband TV Newsreported April 1, citing Kommersant.Gazprom Media bought the stake from businessman and Rossiya Bank investorGennady Timchenko, who in turn purchased the holding from Luxembourg'sRTL Group as part ofa deal involving Russian channel REN TV. Gazprom Media owns direct-to-homeoperator NTV-Plus.
*The British Broadcasting Corp.'sBBC Worldwide Ltd.backed South Africanproduction company Rapid Blue with an investment, according to a March 29 newsrelease. Rapid Blue produces original productions and international televisionformats for South African, African and international audiences. The investmentwill help BBC Worldwide expand in the region and meet the demand for localcontent for the African market, in addition to taking African content to theworld. Rapid Blue will continue to produce programming for BBC Worldwide,alongside existing and new distribution and production partners.
*The Office of Foreign Assets Control of the U.S. Treasury Department issued alicense authorizingCTC Media Inc. toproceed with the previously announced cash-out merger transaction. The companysaid March 29 that its board is finalizing preparations for the merger and isawaiting the receipt of a tax refund from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service,which will form part of the consideration to stockholders in the merger. CTCMedia's board expects to complete the deal early in the second quarter of 2016.
*VICE Media Inc.bought a controllingstake in British production company Pulse Films, Variety reported March 29. The deal is expected to help Pulsebolster its scripted output across movies and TV. Pulse Films was founded byThomas Benski and Marisa Clifford in 2005.
*Sky plc a minority stake inSugar Films, an independent production company founded by senior televisionprofessionals Kwadjo Dajan, Narinder Minhas, Lucy Pilkington, Nav Raman and PatYounge. Former Discovery Networks International President and CEO MarkHollinger will also take a stake in the company and become chairman, accordingto a March 23 news release. Sky's international production and distributionbusiness, Sky Vision, will become Sugar Films' exclusive distribution partnerand will represent all new programs and formats. Discovery NetworksInternational is a unit of DiscoveryCommunications Inc.
*Russia's National Media Group uppedits stake in the REN TV channel to 82%, Broadband TV News reported March 21,citing Vedomosti. The media groupacquired Cypriot offshore company Emira Consultants' 14% stake in REN TV. Thestake was sold in order to comply with new Russian laws that limit foreign massmedia ownership. An industry source quoted in the report said that NationalMedia Group could have paid more than $9.3 million for the holding.
* Danishoperator TDC A/Sacquired Cirque, aprovider of cloud-based business communications solutions, Telecompaperreported March 31. Cirque will become a separate brand under TDC's enterprisedivision TDC Erhverv. Cirque CEO Kristoffer Basse and COO Mads Fosselius willcontinue to lead the company, and all its 50 employees will be retained. Thedeal already took effect since it does not require the approval of the DanishCompetition and Consumer Authority.
*United Online Inc.struck anagreement with Ströer ContentGroup GmbH to sellits subsidiaries, including the company's StayFriends social networking unitsin Europe. The €16 million deal includes cash of €6.5 million on StayFriends'balance sheet, according to a March 31 news release. The StayFriends unitincludes international websites in Germany, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland andFrance. The transaction is expected to close by April 30 and is subject to theGerman Antitrust Act. The StayFriends sale is part of United Online's strategyto exit the social media business following the sale of Classmates in August2015.
*The European Commission said March 30 that it an in-depth investigation intothe proposed joint venture between CKHutchison Holdings Ltd.'s 3 Italia and 's . Thecommission will look into the extent of competition between 3 Italia and WIND,the joint venture's potential gains and the possible response of itscompetitors. The EC expressed concerns that the deal could result in higherprices, fewer options and reduced innovation for Italian mobile customers. Thecommission has 90 working days until August 10 to decide on the transaction.
As of April 1, US$1was equivalent to 68.02 Russian rubles.