Premiere buys back Star stock

Decision is a vote of confidence in satellite platform

COLOGNE, Germany -- German pay TV group Premiere has reached a deal to buy back outstanding shares held by minority partners in its satellite platform Premiere Star.

Premiere Star managing director Wolfram Winter and institutional shareholders such as Turner Broadcasting, investment group Avenue Capital, German bank HVB and adult entertainment firm Erotic Media control 40.2% of the company.

The decision to buy back those shares is a vote of confidence in Premiere Star, which only launched in 2007 and, with parent Premiere struggling financially, was thought to be at risk. Premiere CEO Mark Williams put those worries to rest, calling the satellite operation "part of Premiere's core business."

Under the agreement, Premiere will buy back the minority shares in Premiere Star over the next four years, starting in July 2009, with the bulk of the payments to come in 2012 and 2013. By then, Premiere, which booked a $344 million net loss last year, hopes to be back in the black.

Premiere is currently restructuring and has set up a plan to raise €975 million ($1.2 billion) this year through new long-term loans and two major share issues. Premiere shareholders will vote on the restructuring plan at an extraordinary general meeting in Munich this Thursday.