Pro7 shareholders up in arms over dividend

Minority shareholders attack ‘exorbitant’ move

COLOGNE, Germany -- Minority shareholders of pan-European broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 are up in arms over a decision by company management to pay out 270 million euros ($418 million) in company dividends despite a 3.4 billion euro ($5.3 billion) debt load and a rock-bottom share price.

At ProSieben's general shareholder meeting Tuesday, representatives for the company's smaller shareholders attacked the move as exorbitant. Independent investors are furious at ProSieben owners, private equity firms Permira and KKR, as well as CEO Guillauime de Posch, for the collapse in the company's shares. ProSieben stock, which last year traded for more than 30 euros a share, is hovering below 9 euros ($14).

"Be careful (investing) in ProSiebenSat.1!" Daniela Bergdolt said of the shareholders association DSW to thunderous applause at the shareholder meeting.

But De Posch, while acknowledging the "public resistance" to the payout, argued that ProSieben is in very good health and will remain sufficiently solvent to carry out its expansion plans. Despite a rough first half, which saw revenue and profits dip, De Porsch forecast full-year growth for 2008.

ProSiebenSat.1 shares fell 2.5% to 8.75 euros ($13.60) by mid-afternoon Tuesday.