Al Jazeera Eying Bid for Turkish Pay-TV Group Digiturk (Report)

6:25 AM PST 12/19/2013 by Scott Roxborough
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Al Jazeera has been expanding agressively aboard, launching Al Jazeera American this year.

Turkish media giant Dogan and Turk Telekom has already put in bids for Digiturk, which holds exclusive rights to Turkey’s Super League soccer tournament.

Qatari-backed broadcaster Al Jazeera is considering a bid for a majority stake in Turkish pay-TV company Digiturk, according to media reports.

Reuters quotes unnamed banking sources familiar with the company’s plans that say Al Jazerra is interested in Digiturk in a bid to boost its portfolio of sports rights ahead of the 2022 World Cup soccer championships in Qatar. Digiturk has a $321 million-a-year deal for the exclusive rights to Turkey’s soccer championships, the Super League.

Buyers have been circling Digiturk ever since a 53 percent stake in the pay-TV group was seized by Turkey's Savings Deposit Insurance Fund from investor Cukurova Holding in May because of the Cukurova’s debts to the state agency.

Turkish media giant Dogan has already put in a $742 million non-binding bid for the Digiturk stake, while Turk Telkom has offered $530 million for the same shares.  U.S. private equity group Providence Equity Partners owns the remaining 47 percent of Digiturk and has appointed J.P. Morgan to assess its options, according to Reuters, though the report quotes others sources saying Providence was not interested in selling its stake. Al Jazeera has appointed Barclays Capital to assist with its bid, the report claimed.

Reuters quotes sources as putting Digiturk’s enterprise value at around $1.5 billion, with a market cap of $1 billion and some $500 million of debt.

All parties declined comment Thursday.

Al Jazeera has been aggressive in its push to expand its international operations. In January, the group, which is backed by Qatar’s royal family of Qatar,acquired Al Gore’s cable channel Current TV in a deal estimated to be worth nearly $500 million. Rebranded as 24-hour news net Al Jazeera America, the channel says it now reaches some 55 million homes across the U.S..

Digiturk is Turkey's largest pay-TV operator with around 60 percent market share.

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