M6 sale: the match of the contenders is on

Posted on September 25, 2022 at 16:55

Disappointed that he couldn’t marry M6 off with TF1, Six shareholder Bertelsmann is in the room to finalize the sale of his 48% stake. Everything could have to be finalized by the end of this week, indicate several sources familiar with the matter. It must be said that French law would force the German group to wait until 2028 if the sale does not take place before the renewal of the M6 ​​frequency next May. And that apparently it is necessary to have a stable shareholder at the end of 2022 to request this license.

According to our information, on Friday, September 23, Bertelsmann received several offers that should not leave him indifferent and whose financing he will now carefully examine. Although the first indications about its structure vary, at least two offers would exceed 19 euros per share, thus valuing the stake in M6 at around 1,200 million euros, that is, the theoretical level that Bertelsmann would have obtained in the framework of the operation with TF1.

Two offers stand out.

In this moving file, a major new twist has appeared. Xavier Niel, individual shareholder of Le Monde and owner of the Iliad telecommunications group, has joined forces with the Berlusconi family’s Italian television group Media For Europe (which includes Mediaset entities and is listed in Amsterdam).

This offer competes with that of Rodolphe Saadé, future owner of “La Provence” and president of CMA CGM, Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, owner of Fimalac, and Stéphane Courbit, the television producer who has just listed his company FL Entertainment, owner of Banijay. And therefore there would be a third offer from the Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, already a candidate last year. At the moment, however, there is nothing to say that the other candidates (Vivendi, Altice, etc.) have withdrawn.

In the case of the tripartite consortium, Stéphane Courbit would be in the majority and control of M6 would pass into the hands of the holding company of the audiovisual production company, LOV Group, or one of its entities.

The Niel-Berlusconi hitch

Some were already betting on the victory of the French establishment’s offer, but the game seems more open, with some saying that the Franco-Italian alternative is “way ahead in economic terms”, says a source familiar with the discussions.

Present in Italy since 2018, Iliad has already conquered more than 10% of the mobile market there. At the beginning of the year, Xavier Niel’s telecommunications group allied with the Apax fund in an offer of 11,000 million euros for the Italian subsidiary of Vodafone. But the British operator had rejected it. Allied with the Berlusconi family, Xavier Niel would have support for his transalpine telecommunications activities.

The former Mediaset, leader in free-to-air television in Italy and Spain, also has a minority stake in Germany’s ProSieben. According to our information, Mediaset had already lost in the M6 ​​final in the spring of 2021 against Bouygues. Some media scholars point out that international synergies may finally begin to materialize with the growing internationalization of series audiences, while the television market was previously isolated from its domestic markets. This can be an advantage for this offer.

Legal problem

But some point out that a problem with a politician supposedly accommodating of Vladimir Putin and missing the launch of a channel in France, La Cinq, more than thirty years ago, could surprise the French establishment. Although other offers also have weak points in this regard.

The procedure requires passing the examination of the Competition Authority as well as that of Arcom, the audiovisual policeman. Therefore, it will be the offer that presents the least regulatory difficulties that will be chosen provided that Bertelsmann has reached the minimum price it has set for its highly profitable French television subsidiary. Disappointed candidates may challenge the chosen choice in court, potentially derailing a potential advertised “deal.”

However, after the blitz against the TF1-M6 merger, Bertelsmann wants to move quickly and doesn’t necessarily want to worry about the buyer’s pedigree.

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