ProSieben may be on market again


COLOGNE, Germany -- Less than a year after German regulators blocked Haim Saban from selling his 50.5% stake in ProSieben Sat.1, the Teutonic broadcaster again could be put on the block.

According to sources near German Media Partners, the Saban-led group that controls ProSieben, one or more of the private-equity groups in the investment consortium are looking to sell their shares. There also are reports that Saban, along with key investors Hellman & Friedman and Providence Equity have hired JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley to set up an auction for their majority stake that could start next month.

ProSieben, JPMorgan and Morgan Stanley declined comment Friday. Saban's German spokesman could not be reached for comment. A spokeswoman in New York said the company declines comment on market speculation.

ProSieben, which controls five free-to-air channels in Germany, is flying high, helped by a rebound in the local ad market and a strong investment climate that has kept its share price buoyant.

CEO Guillaume de Posch said Wednesday that thanks to the favorable climate, the company expected to grow revenue 5%-6% this year, rather the 4%-5% previously predicted. That will set ProSieben up for another record year and could favor a quick sell-off by Saban and partners.

According to German media reports, Saban is in favor of a quick sell-off and is willing to part with his stake for less than the €30 ($37.80) per share reportedly expected by the rest of the consortium.

Companies that have been mentioned as possible buyers include various U.S. media giants and private-equity groups Apax and Goldman Sachs. Sources close to ProSieben, however, said there so far have been no offers near the €30 price tag.

Saban and his partners are unlikely to consider any bid that does not top Springer's 2005 offer of €23.58 per share. That deal, which was dropped after authorities threatened to stop it, would have valued German Media Partner's ProSieben stake at slightly more than $3 billion.

UBS analyst Daniel Kerven, in a research note Friday said that "apparently the price is now expected to be significantly higher" than when Springer was planning to acquire the company.

"The nonvoting shareholders, or the listed stock, will not receive a takeover premium," but in the event of a full takeover as in the Springer offer, will be offered three-month (average prices) or "the opportunity to partake in the enlarged group on a ratio determined by an independent adjudicator," he added.

Any sale likely is to mean a major windfall for Saban and his partners, which also include Alpine Equity, Bain Capital, Putnam, Thomas H. Lee and the Quadrangle Group. They paid $900 million for a majority stake and pumped an additional $350 million in equity into the company.

Georg Szalai in New York contributed to this report.