Sweden's Modern Times Group Buys French Pay Network Operator Trace

The deal for 75 percent of Trace values the company, which operates across Africa, at $55 million.

Scandinavia’s Modern Times Group (MTG) is set to take a 75 percent stake in France-based pay-TV group Trace in a deal that values the company at $55 million (€40 million). 

Although based in France, Trace is a global network with third-party carriage agreements with networks in 160 countries worldwide, including 55 in Africa, a territory MTG has targeted as one of its new sources of growth.

MTG picked up the stake in an all-cash deal with Trace management and equity groups Citizen Capital, Entrepreneur Venture and NextStage. Trace's management will retain the remaining 25 percent of the company.  Trace CEO and co-founder Olivier Laouchez will stay on in his role, as will the other members of his management team. 

A youth-focused brand, Trance operates a trio of music TV channels as well as a sports celebrity lifestyle network, Trace Sports Stars. The group's channels focus on urban music and culture and are especially popular in Africa and among the African diaspora across Europe. The four Trace channels are localized in 16 different feeds and are available in 11 different languages.

According to its own figures, Trace has generated 23 percent compound annual net sales growth over the five years to the end of 2013, booking preliminary net sales of $26.5 million (€19.3 million) last year. About half of that came from Africa and other emerging markets.  The company had 37 million paying subscribers as of December 31, 2013, up from 27 million at the end of 2012.

The MTG deal still has to pass muster with the French media authorities.