October 17, 2019 / 4:37 PM / 2 months ago

Czech firm PPF close to deal with AT&T on buying CME: reports

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Investment group PPF, owned by the Czech Republic’s richest man Petr Kellner, is close to concluding talks on buying a majority stake in Central European Media Enterprises (CME) from U.S. firm AT&T (T.N), Czech and Bulgarian media reported on Thursday.

FILE PHOTO: The company logo for AT&T is displayed on a screen on the floor at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) in New York, U.S., September 18, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

AT&T holds 64% of CME’s common stock but effectively controls 75% of the company through preferred shares. The U.S. firm inherited CME after its merger with Time Warner.

CME, which operates TV stations in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia, has a market capitalization of $1.13 billion, according to Refinitiv data.

Czech daily newspaper Hospodarske Noviny and the Aktualne.cz news website reported that the outcome of the talks could be announced “within days”. They quoted unnamed sources.

The report said Kellner was conducting talks personally. A sale would mark one of the biggest of its kind in the Czech media market as CME owns leading commercial broadcaster TV Nova.

Bulgarian financial newspaper Capital quoted three sources saying talks between PPF and CME were in the final stage, with an official announcement of a deal expected as early as Thursday.

A PPF spokeswoman said the company would not comment on market speculation. CME could not immediately be reached for comment and AT&T did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.

CME raised its operating profit guidance on Thursday for the third time this year, after third-quarter earnings just beat analysts’ expectations.

CME said in a conference call following the results that a strategic review launched in March and including the sale of part or all of the company remained under way.

Kellner’s PPF owns assets ranging from lenders to real estate and telecommunications in Europe and Asia, including Czech telecom operator O2 Czech Republic (SPTT.PR) and global consumer lender Home Credit.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Michael Kahn

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