PRAGUE — Investment group PPF, owned by the Czech Republic's wealthiest businessman, Petr Kellner, will buy broadcaster Central European Media Enterprises Ltd (CME) in a cash deal valued at about $2.1 billion, the companies said on Sunday.
The deal, seen closing around the middle of 2020, will mark the exit of CME's largest shareholder, AT&T Inc, as it pays down debt. It also expands PPF's reach in the media and telecommunications landscape across central and eastern Europe.
Under the deal, PPF will pay $4.58 per share in cash to shareholders of Nasdaq- and Prague-listed CME, which operates television stations in the Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia.
The valuation represented a 32% premium to CME's stock price before it announced a strategic review, which first floated the idea of a sale, in March this year, CME said.
AT&T, which holds 64% of the common stock, has agreed to vote in favour of the deal, it said.
For PPF, CME will potentially complement its ownership of Czech telecoms operator O2 Czech Republic along with Telenor assets it acquired in Hungary, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Serbia in 2018.
PPF said it did not intend to make any significant changes to CME's operations.
CME, which was founded by U.S. investor Ronald Lauder in the 1990s, has boosted revenue and profits in recent years on the back of rising advertising spending in growing economies in the region in which it operates.
It has also shed assets and cut down a debt load that once stood above $1 billion and needed financing help from shareholder Time Warner.
AT&T inherited CME after it bought Time Warner in 2018.
AT&T said that under terms of the deal, it would receive about $1.1 billion in cash at the close and be relieved of a $575 million debt guarantee.
(Reporting by Jason Hovet, additional reporting by Ismail Shakil in Bengaluru; Editing by Peter Cooney)