Bertelsmann's RTL scraps plan to sell stake in French TV Group M6

A man is silhouetted in front of the logo of German media group Bertelsmann prior to the annual news conference in Berlin, Germany, March 22, 2016. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch/File Photo

MILAN/PARIS, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Bertelsmann's RTL Group (AUDK.LU) has scrapped a plan to sell its controlling stake in French TV group M6 (MMTP.PA), the Luxembourg-based media group said on Monday, confirming a Reuters report.

Dropping the sale of RTL's 48.3% stake in M6 means that Germany's Bertelsmann (BTGGg.F) will have to wait five years before considering any new bids for the French TV network, known for its high margins in a sector challenged by the competition of U.S. streaming platforms such as Netflix (NFLX.O), Amazon Prime (AMZN.O) and Disney+ (DIS.N).

M6 will apply for a new five-year broadcast authorisation from May 2023. Once granted by France's audiovisual authority, Arcom, it cannot change its controlling shareholder for that period of time, under French law.

"RTL Group has been a strategic shareholder in Groupe M6 for 35 years," Bertelsmann and RTL Chief Executive Officer Thomas Rabe said in a statement.

"We will continue to pursue our strategy to build national media groups of sufficient size to compete with the U.S. platforms," Rabe said, adding that RTL had received "several financially attractive offers" for its stake in M6.

RTL and Bouygues (BOUY.PA), the parent group of France's biggest private TV network, TF1 (TFFP.PA), ended a plan to merge M6 and TF1 into a national television champion last month, saying demands by the French competition authority made it unworkable. read more

RTL was "inundated" with expressions of interest in its stake in M6 after the collapse of the TF1-M6 merger plan, Rabe said shortly after, according to a media report. [nL1N30T1NZ]

Rabe added at the time that continuing with a sale of the M6 stake was only an option.

Among the leading contenders were Italian broadcaster MediaForEurope , which had joined forces with French billionaire Xavier Niel, sources familiar with the matter said.

One of the sources said a consortium of high-profile French entrepreneurs including billionaire Rodolphe Saade, Stephane Courbit of TV production group Banijay, and investor Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere were also interested in buying the M6 stake.

Reporting by Mathieu Rosemain and Elvira Pollina; Editing by Jane Merriman, Mark Potter and Leslie Adler

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