Bertelsmann decides not to sell M6

Les négociations avec les prétendants à un rachat de la Six se sont accélérées ces derniers jours, après l'abandon mi-septembre du projet de fusion entre TF1 et M6.

Posted Oct 3, 2022, 6:54 PMUpdated Oct 3, 2022, 7:35 PM

It’s over… The soap opera of the sale of M6, which has kept the PAF in suspense for almost two years, has found its epilogue: Bertelsmann, parent company of the M6 ​​group, has finally decided to give up the sale of the 48.3% he owns in this jewel of television and radio in France.

Given the legal risks and uncertainties “too high” and despite offers deemed “attractive”, the German group decided on Monday not to sell and to keep its controlling stake in the competitor of TF1 with which it had already had to give up. to merge in September.

According to our information, it was the offer of Stéphane Courbit accompanied by Rodolphe Saadé and Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière which would have been the closest to succeed. But the uncertainties and the possibility of failure complicated the financing of the operation.

The group was faced with a very tight schedule, it is true. Next May the DTT license for the channel piloted by Nicolas de Tavernost expires. In all likelihood, she will get her renewal. But this means that it will not be transferable for five years, that is 2028, according to the law. To avoid being “stuck”, Bertelsmann therefore had to present a takeover file likely to be completed within a very short time. It was necessary in the months which come to pass in front of the policeman of Competition then in front of Arcom (the regulator of audio-visual, successor of the CSA). Indeed, for an operation worth more than one billion euros, it is impossible for a buyer to commit to writing a check without having the certainty that the frequency, which is key in the valuation of M6, would indeed be renewed! According to our information, Arcom would have been forced to launch calls for applications for the M6 ​​frequency on December 15 at the latest, with submission of formal applications in mid-January.

However, before the submission of these applications for the TNT frequency of the Six, two green lights were to intervene. Arcom first had to examine and approve the new owner (which involves hearings, a specific impact study, etc.). But Arcom itself could only issue its approval decision after an antitrust decision, which would also have taken time.

However, it seems that the German group, but also the buyers, were hesitant with regard to the tight schedule. And all the more so as Roch-Olivier Maistre (Arcom) like Benoît Coeuré (ADLC) had warned in recent days of the tight timing.

In fact, Bertelsmann is therefore forced to keep M6 for five years unless the law changes.

Three offers in the running

However, the suitors were numerous. Barely the ink of the press release throwing in the towel on the merger with TF1 dries, the phones of Nicolas de Tavernost, the boss of M6 and Thomas Rabe, the chairman and CEO of Bertelsmann, have not stopped ringing. Some who had looked at the file when M6 went on sale in early 2021 – before the announcement of exclusive negotiations with TF1 in May 2021 – were again in the running.

And in the end, several suitors were on the finish line: Xavier Niel, individual shareholder of Le Monde and owner of the Iliad telecoms group, joined forces with the Italian television group Media For Europe (which includes the entities of Mediaset) of the Berlusconi family which would have remained a minority in the operation.

He was in competition with an offer bringing together Stéphane Courbit, behind the production giant Banijay, which he has just listed on the stock market, Rodolphe Saadé, the brand new owner of “La Provence” and president of CMA CGM, and Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, owner of Fimalac (behind Webedia).

A third offer came from Czech billionaire Daniel Kretinsky, who had already been a candidate last year.

The feasibility of the project

As sources familiar with the matter indicate, the choice of buyer depended on three indicators: the price (we were talking about an offer of around 20 euros per share), but also the management and feasibility of the project. Bertelsmann preferred not to take the risk of suffering another failure.

It is a failure for Thomas Rabe, the boss of Bertelsmann who carried this sale project. He certainly assumes this decision to keep M6 and wants to be reassuring by confirming the overall strategy of his group. “We will pursue our strategy of building national media groups of sufficient size to compete with American platforms,” he wrote in a press release. But it is a failure while another operation on the American publishing market involving the German giant looks just as complicated.



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