FRANKFURT, June 10 (Reuters) - Europe’s biggest commercial broadcaster, RTL Group AUDK.LU, and Russia’s National Media Group (NMG) have agreed on an asset swap that will see NMG strengthen its grip on the Russian media sector.
RTL said it will receive a 7.5 percent stake in NMG, while NMG will get RTL Group’s 30 percent holding in the Russian REN TV channel, increasing its stake to 100 percent.
“RTL Group has swapped its minority share in one single broadcaster for another minority share in the rapidly expanding media group NMG,” said Andreas Rudas, an executive at RTL’s central and eastern European operations, in a statement on the company’s website on Friday.
“Through this agreement, RTL Group has interests in three major TV channels in Russia.”
NMG is one of the largest private media holdings in Russia, with other stakes in Channel One, St Petersburg TV Broadcasting Company, and national daily newspaper Izvestia.
The group, controlled by Bank Rossiya co-owner Yuri Kovalchuk, is also in talks on buying Alfa-Group’s one-quarter stake in CTC Media CTCM.O, Russia’s biggest broadcaster outside state control. [ID:nLDE73R0O8]
Kovalchuk, a scientist-turned-banker, was Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin’s country house neighbour in the 1990s.
RTL Group, majority owned by German media conglomerate Bertelsmann, entered the Russian market in 2005 by acquiring its stake in Ren TV from founders Iren Lesnevskaya and Dmitry Lesnevsky.
Reporting by Nicola Leske; editing by David Hulmes