CTC Media puts money into Central Asia

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LONDON -- Russia's leading independent television network, CTC Media, said Tuesday that it has struck a deal to buy a $65 million majority stake in key Central Asia broadcaster Channel 31 group.

The deal, which will give CTC access to the broadcast market in oil-rich Kazakhstan, is expected to take some months to close, CTC said in a statement issued in Moscow.

CTC will directly hold 20% in Channel 31 and a majority stake in affiliated companies that sell advertising and provide programming for the channel.

Overall the deal gives CTC a 60% stake in the Channel 31 group and will allow CTC to consolidate the financial statements of Channel 31 group within its own, according to Tuesday's statement.

In a separate deal, CTC -- in cooperation with Uzbek media holding company Terra -- also has registered a new television company in Uzbekistan, expected to launch in 2008 on Channel 30 there. CTC will own a 51% stake in that company.

The two deals will open up broadcast markets with a combined population of more than 40 million.

"We are excited about the opportunity presented by the Kazakhstan market," CTC CEO Alexander Rodnyansky said. "This is a country with a fast-growing economy. It has significant potential for further growth in the television advertising market -- estimated at $200 million in 2006 -- and is the third-largest country in the former Soviet Union after Russia and Ukraine."

Rodnyansky added that the Uzbek deal will "create the first national TV player with foreign ownership" in that market, giving CTC "a unique position to reshape and develop the Uzbek TV landscape."
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