Premiere preps for soccer bidding war

German pay-TV giant to raise $245.6 mil from share issue

MUNICH -- German pay TV giant Premiere, in an attempt to regain the crucial Bundesliga soccer rights it lost last year, is issuing another 14.1 million shares at €12.50 ($17.45) as it looks to boost its war chest for an expected bidding war over the 2009-12 Bundesliga seasons.

The shares will be available to stockholders at a ratio of 7:1 until Sept. 24, Premiere said Wednesday. Assuming the issue sells out, Premiere will have an extra €176 million ($245.6 million) in its coffers when Bundesliga rights go on the auction block in November.

The company had originally stated a goal of raising up to €250 million ($349 million), but a spokesman said that was never a must-reach figure.

"We didn't know what the market was going to do in August (when the decision to recapitalize was made)," the spokesman said. "If someone got the impression that we needed €250 million, they were wrong -- it was just the top of the range."

Premiere, once the unassailable owner of exclusive rights to broadcast Bundesliga matches live on television, saw its bid rejected in December 2005 by Germany's soccer organization DFB in favor of pay TV upstart Arena -- despite offering more money.

The DFB was unhappy with Premiere's insistence on greater exclusivity for its subscribers, specifically a clause that would have pushed back the free TV broadcast of match highlights until several hours after the day's matches had ended.

Premiere eventually bought back the Bundesliga rights in a €500 million ($698.3 million) deal with Arena parent Unity Media.

German sports rights specialists EM.TV and French-owned Sportfive, which is introducing an IPTV channel in the territory in October, have both expressed interest in acquiring Bundesliga soccer.

The Premiere spokesman said his company intends to maintain its campaign for greater exclusivity, despite the failure of that policy last year.
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