John de Mol, Sanoma, Waterman & Waterman Buy ProSieben's Benelux Channels for $1.4 Billion

ProSieben holds onto local production operations.

COLOGNE, Germany - European broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 has sold its TV channels in Belgium and the Netherlands for $1.4 billion (€1.22 billion) to a media consortium consisting of Talpa Holding, the operation controlled by Big Brother creator John de Mol; Finnish publishing house Sanoma and private equity group Waterman & Waterman.

In a deal signed early Wednesday, Talpa and Sanoma will jointly acquire Dutch channels Veronica, Net 5 and SBS6, along with ProSieben's Dutch print assets. In a separate deal, Sanoma and Waterman & Waterman purchased ProSieben's Belgium networks VT4, VijF.  

The Netherlands deal, which still has to be approved by local media regulators, will significantly increase De Mol's hold over the Dutch TV market. His Talpa operation already holds a 26.3 percent stake in RTL Group's Dutch television operations. RTL was also in the running for ProSieben's Dutch operations. ProSieben will hold onto its Benelux-based production operations.

ProSieben's owners, private equity groups Permira and KKR, will use the cash from the Benelux deals to pay down ProSieben's debt, which stands at around $4.3 billion (€3 billion). KKR and Permira saddled ProSieben with the debt burden when, back in 2007, they pushed the company to buy SBS Broadcasting, which owned channels in Scandinavia, Benelux and Eastern Europe.

ProSieben had floated the idea of selling its Scandi networks as well but CEO Thomas Ebeling now says the group will be holding onto to its 12 broadcasters in the region.