Premiere shares fall to all-time low

Could prompt further investment by News Corp.

COLOGNE, Germany -- Shares in German pay TV group Premiere fell to an all-time low Monday as evidence that the company cooked its books continues to send shockwaves through the industry.

Premiere shares lost half their value Friday after new CEO Mark Williams warned the group could lose up to $95 million this year and that subscribers figures were almost a million lower than previously reported. On Monday, Premiere shares fell another 31% by late afternoon trading to $4.30.

Williams and his bosses at News Corp. are trying to restructure the company's debt to keep Premiere afloat and in the running for the rights to Germany's Bundesliga soccer matches. Williams has said there are no plans to pump money into Premiere.

There is speculation, however, that the rock-bottom share price could tempt News Corp. to increase its 25% stake in Premiere.

Meanwhile, sources close to the company told The Hollywood Reporter that CFO Alexander Teschner, who was sacked last week, might not be the last exec to get the boot over Premiere's faulty figures.

"Anyone who has been there awhile will be under suspicion," one German industry insider said.

Premiere cut 940,000 subscribers from its official rolls last week, admitting that earlier tallies had included people who had never activated their pay TV subscriptions or who had not renewed previous contracts.

In addition to its other woes, Premiere could now face a suit from small shareholders, who could claim they were duped.
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