The sale of United Group, which owns Serbian TV station N1 and SBB, is entering its final stage. The American investment company KKR, which is allegedly run by the former CIA Director David Petraeus, has been negotiating about the sale of its daughter company with interested buyers for a considerable amount of time. The entire procedure is expected to be finalized in September, and it is overseen by Credit Suisse.
In early August, Reuters reported that European investment companies Cinven and BC Partners were interested in acquiring the company. This is not the first time that Cinven is trying to buy United Group, as it was one of the more serious competitors to KKR back in 2013. At the time, the seller was another investment company, Mid Europa Partners, which later bought Danube Foods Group in Serbia, which was subsequently renamed as Moji Brendovi.
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BIRN has reported that the Czech PPF Group was one the biggest candidates for the acquisition of this company. The company has recently acquired Telenor in Montenegro, Serbia, Hungary and Bulgaria. As we’ve learned, PPF has already changed the local management in Serbia and Sasa Filipovic was appointed the new director in early August. According to our findings, this is only a temporary solution, as new management is expected to be appointed by the end of the month.
It is also reported that PPF Group is ready to pay EUR 3 billion for this transaction, and the United Group’s liabilities are nearly EUR 1 billion.
SBB also operates under United Group, and it has been announced recently that this company will also become the owner of the marketing agency Direct Media and acquire TV Pink B&H and TV Pink Montenegro. United Group has recently submitted the request for the authorization of the purchase of a 100% stake in Direct Media in Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Albania to the Commission for Protection of Competition. The processing of the request is pending.
Direct Media, which is owned by several offshore companies, used to belong to the former mayor of Belgrade, Dragan Djilas. This company has been the regional leader among media and communication agencies for nearly two decades.
United Group was formed in 2007 through a merger of SBB, Telemah Slovenia and Telemah Bosnia. The company is registered in the offshore zone in Luxembourg. Through its daughter company in Serbia, KKR also owns Total TV, Grand Produkcija, Sport Klub, Cinemania and Ultra. The Commission for Protection of Competition has recently authorized the takeover of Srpska Naucna Televizija by United Group. The transaction was worth only EUR 25,000.
Several months ago, KKR announced considerable investments through its daughter company in this part of the region. KKR representatives met with Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic in April and announced that they would invest EUR 293 million in Serbia over the next five years.
As KKR announced at the time, as many as 2.9 million people in Serbia currently use the services of United Group. The companies operating under the Group have 1,881 employees. The Group has built or rented a total of around 15,800 kilometers of the optical network, crucial to the development of business in Serbia. In its several years of operation, they’ve paid around RSD 4 billion to the state in taxes.
As KKR announced, EUR 264 million has been invested in Serbia since this investment company bought United Group.
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