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Czech Republic’s richest man strengthens media empire following $2.1 billion-deal

Prague, Czech Republic – Czech tycoon and PPF Group owner Petr Kellner has strengthened his media empire in Central and Eastern Europe following a multi-billion-dollar deal.

In a statement released on Sunday, PPF Group announced that it had agreed to pay $2.1 billion to acquire Central European Media Enterprises (CME), a multinational media conglomerate, from AT&T.

CME is a major television broadcaster in Central and Eastern Europe, with television stations in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania and Bulgaria.

It broadcasts to some 45 million viewers with over 30 different TV channels, including some significant assets in the Czech Republic (Nova, Nova 2, Nova Cinema, Nova Sport 1, Nova Sport 2, Nova International, Nova Action and Nova Gold) and Slovakia (TV Markíza, Markíza International, Doma and Dajto).

The transaction still has to get the green-light from the European Commission and national anti-trust regulators in some of the countries in question. The whole process could take several months.

Petr Kellner, a notoriously secretive Czech tycoon and majority shareholder of PPF Group, commented on the deal, which came after months of speculations: “The acquisition of CME with its media assets in five European countries will complement and further strengthen our telecommunications operations in Central and Eastern Europe […] CME is a healthy and well-run organization and we do not intend to make any significant changes to its operations”.

The Czech Republic’s richest man, according to U.S. magazine Forbes, and 73rd biggest fortune in the world, Petr Kellner is the main shareholder of PPF Group, a massive multi-national conglomerate with activities spanning from banking to telecommunications, financial services and real estate, among others.

Several weeks ago, a study by Oxford University’s Reuters Institute had already warned of the alarming level of media concentration in the Czech Republic. The report, released before this latest transaction, considered that the domestic media landscape was under threat and slowly “shifting towards domestic tycoons”, including Prime Minister Andrej Babis and energy tycoon Daniel Kretinsky.

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