February 22, 2018 / 7:27 AM / 10 months ago

ProSiebenSat.1 sells stake in digital business to General Atlantic

MUNICH/BONN (Reuters) - ProSiebenSat.1 Media SE (PSMGn.DE) has agreed to sell a stake in its e-commerce business to U.S. investment firm General Atlantic as it seeks to finance a shift away from its legacy free-to-air TV business and expand its eclectic digital portfolio.

Confirming a deal flagged by Reuters, General Atlantic will acquire a 25.1 percent stake in ProSieben’s NuCom unit.

ProSieben Chief Financial Officer Jan Kemper said General Atlantic paid around 300 million euros ($368.6 million). It had earlier said the deal gave NuCom an enterprise value of 1.8 billion euros ($2.2 billion).

The German broadcaster has already raised about a billion euros to fund acquisitions but has spent just a quarter of that, confusing some investors about its digital strategy. Kemper said the company still has over 1 billion euros in liquidity for acquisitions.

The transaction announced on Thursday marks a parting shot by Chief Executive Thomas Ebeling, who is stepping down after a nine-year stint.

Ebeling presided over a share price rise to above 30 euros from below 1 euro, but the end of his term was marred by profit warnings, an exodus of senior managers and his description of ProSieben’s core audience as poor and fat.

Things had started to go wrong last year as ProSieben was caught out by a weak TV ad market and the flops of some of the U.S. shows it had bought - just as digital platforms like Netflix (NFLX.O) were producing a string of their own hits.

ProSieben also reported fourth-quarter financial results on Thursday, with core profit (adjusted EBITDA) broadly flat at 390 million euros, beating consensus for 375 million in a Reuters poll.

ProSieben's shares traded 1.2 percent higher by 0851 GMT and were the top gainers in the German blue-chip DAX .GDAXI, which was down 0.9 percent.

Ebeling will be replaced by Max Conze, the former boss of UK home appliances maker Dyson.

LIFESTYLE PLATFORM

NuCom spans dating site Parship, energy price comparison portal Verivox and Jochen Schweizer, which sells vouchers for ‘experiences’ like tandem parachute jumps. It generated over 650 million euros of revenue in 2017, according to ProSieben.

NuCom, founded on Jan. 1, will take on 10 investments and the new partners will seek to benefit from ProSieben’s advertising reach while ramping up cooperation in fields such as data and technology.

General Atlantic has already worked with German publisher Axel Springer (SPRGn.DE) on its digital portfolio, and has backed ride-hailing app Uber, accommodation platform AirBnB and meals-on-wheels firm Delivery Hero (DHER.DE).

“ProSiebenSat.1 has done successful pioneer work here and has built a portfolio with strong growth potential,” said Joern Nikolay, managing director and head of General Atlantic Germany.

The NuCom transaction is subject to antitrust approval. JP Morgan acted as the financial adviser to ProSieben while Goldman Sachs advised General Atlantic.

Writing by Maria Sheahan and Douglas Busvine; Editing by Georgina Prodhan and Adrian Croft

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