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Sunday, January 29, 2023

Austria: damper for Berlusconi company on ProSiebenSat.1 share

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For the Berlusconi media group MFE, things are sluggish as a shareholder in ProSiebenSat.1. He wants to increase the shares. The competition authority from Austria has concerns and turns on a cartel court.

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The Italian Berlusconi media group Media For Europe (MFE) has initially had to accept a setback in the planned increase in its stake in ProSiebenSat.1. The federal competition authority in Austria announced on Tuesday that an “in-depth examination of the project is necessary”. An application for examination was made to the cartel court. ProSiebenSat.1 also has television offerings in Austria.

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When asked by dpa, MFE did not comment on the agency’s actions, nor did ProSiebenSat.1 in Unterföhring near Munich make a statement. MFE is the largest shareholder at ProSiebenSat.1 with more than 20 percent of the share capital and the voting rights. In November, the media company announced its plans to increase its stake to up to 29.9 percent of the voting rights.

The Austrian competition authority, which had focused on the media diversity factor in its own examination, explained its step as follows: ProSiebenSat.1 is one of two private TV providers that produce a wide range of content for the Austrian audience to a large extent. Therefore, as a market participant, the company has “essential importance for media diversity”. The TV channels include, for example, the Austrian full channels PULS 4, PULS 24, ATV and ATV 2.

With regard to the question of the effects of the notified merger project, the examination showed that, based on the current state of knowledge, it cannot be ruled out that there could be adverse effects on the status quo of ProSiebenSat.1’s media activities in Austria and in particular on the scope of Austria-specific program content.

Expand existing participation

According to the information, MFE had registered a “media merger” in mid-December. Specifically: MFE intends to increase the existing stake to 29.9 percent of the voting rights by the next scheduled annual general meeting of ProSiebenSat.1 on May 2, 2023 “and thus take over actual sole control”. At a general meeting, MFE would have a strong influence if the participation rate is low overall. It is unclear how long the examination by the cartel court will take.

It’s not the only scrutiny currently underway on the MFE plans. German media regulators are also involved in the case. It’s about the issue of media concentration – i.e. the market share of a media company – and the question of whether there would be a possible violation of the requirement of being remote from the state. The exam is still running.

Silvio Berlusconi is the former Prime Minister of Italy. The 86-year-old also sat in the EU Parliament and is currently head of the conservative party Forza Italia and a member of the Italian Senate. His son is the head of MFE, and Fininvest, a company founded by Berlusconi, holds around half of the shares.

Relationship was considered cool

In the past, the relationship between the media group ProSiebenSat.1, whose boss had recently been replaced, and Media for Europe was considered rather cool. Milan had repeatedly spoken of a European association. In addition to its home market of Italy, MFE is also active in Spain.

It was reported from the MFE group environment that the company intends to expand its own activities in Germany as the largest advertising market in Europe. Cooperation with ProSiebenSat.1 in the marketing area, which is important for free TV, with the aim of greater reach or in the production of moving image content, could be conceivable.

According to reports, Milan does not want to establish its own new TV stations in Germany at the moment. The focus is on synergies with other TV companies with a view to a European advertising market. TV companies in Europe could also work together more closely on their infrastructure – such as IT systems or streaming technology – according to the considerations.

Source: Stern

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