February 13, 2015 / 1:50 PM / 4 years ago

ProSieben, EQT emerge as only bidders for online travel group Unister - sources

FRANKFURT, Feb 13 (Reuters) - Broadcaster ProSiebenSat.1 and buyout group EQT are the only bidders left for German online travel group Unister Travel in what has proved a bumpy sales process, several sources familiar with the situation said.

EQT has put in a final offer for Unister Travel, which runs German travel sites such as flight booking platform fluege.de and package travel site ab-in-den-urlaub.de and may be valued at up to 900 million euros ($1 billion), they said.

ProSieben remains interested in the group as it seeks to beef up its internet footprint and decrease its dependence on TV advertising revenues, the sources added.

While ProSieben had initially tied up with private equity group General Atlantic, the buyout group has lost interest and is no longer involved in the discussions, they said.

One of the sources said it remained unclear whether Prosieben would want to spend a large part of its budget reserved for acquisitions on Unister.

“The process of finding a strategic partner is continuing,” a spokesman for Unister said.

ProSieben, EQT and General Atlantic declined to comment.

“The sale has proven to be somewhat difficult and it is still uncertain if it will go through,” one of the sources said.

A first attempt to sell the group earlier in 2014 was delayed by legal issues after prosecutors charged some of its managers with tax fraud, unauthorised sale of financial products and violation of competition rules.

Since the relaunch of the auction in autumn, price has proven a major sticking point as Unister Holding, held by its founders, entered discussions seeking to get 1 billion euros, a significant premium over peers, some of the sources said.

According to information provided to potential bidders, Unister was expected to post a 65 percent rise in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) to more than 90 million euros in 2014, on gross revenues of more than 2 billion euros.

But people familiar with some of the bidders had said the earnings jump was achieved in part by a change in accounting methods, adding their estimates for underlying earnings was closer to 70 million euros.

Spanish peer eDreams Odigeo trades at a multiple of 5.7 times its expected core earnings. ($1 = 0.8747 euros) (Reporting by Arno Schuetze and Pamela Barbaglia; Editing by Maria Sheahan and Jane Merriman)

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