Europe's RTL Group Eyes Russia Exit

The company currently owns a 7.5 percent stake in National Media Group, the country's fourth-largest private media company.

MOSCOW – European TV giant RTL Group plans to leave Russia, selling its stake in the National Media Group back to the company.

The departure of RTL Group would leave only two major international players in Russia’s free-to-air TV market – Sweden’s Modern Times Group, which owns a 38 percent stake in CTC Group, and Walt Disney, which runs a TV channel under its brand.

“The final decision here has not been taken, however it is expected that RTL Group will exercise its put option on Sept. 16  for the 7.5 percent shareholding in National Media Group,” RTL Group said. “If we go ahead as seems likely, we will gain around €80 million ($125 million) from this transaction.”

Oliver Fahlbusch, a spokesman for RTL Group, told The Hollywood Reporter that, in accordance with the company’s general investment criteria, RTL Group aims to be the market leader or a strong number two in each of its markets. “And generally, we aim to have operational control – or at least, there should be a credible path to it,” he added.

The National Media Group wasn’t available for comment.

The National Media Group, controlled by a bank and its owner Yuri Kovalchuk, is Russia’s fourth-biggest private media company after Gazprom Media, CTC Media and ProfMedia. It fully owns or has a majority stake in the TV stations REN-TV and Fifth Channel and FM radio station Russian News Service. It also owns a 25 percent stake in state-controlled Channel One.

RTL Group came to the Russian market in 2005 when it obtained a 30 percent stake in REN TV, then one of the country’s top private stations, for $104 million (€67 million). Two years ago, it swapped that for the 7.5 percent stake in the National Media Group.