BERLIN/MILAN (Reuters) -Austria’s competition regulator on Thursday approved MFE-MediaforEurope’s plan to increase its direct stake in ProSiebenSat.1 and be in a position to exercise effective sole control of the German-based broadcaster.
The review, launched in December, can be closed given assurances from MFE that ProSieben’s Austrian operation would retain editorial independence, among other conditions, the BWB regulator said in a statement.
MFE, the commercial broadcaster controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, first invested in ProSieben in 2019, becoming the German group’s top investor as part of a strategy to build a pan-European TV platform.
MFE has a direct stake of 26.6% in the German peer and in November it told the Austrian regulator of plans to hold a further 2.29% stake it currently owns via derivatives directly, in a move which would give MFE de facto sole control of ProSieben.
The regulator had concerns that MFE’s plan to increase its direct stake in ProSieben could affect media diversity in Austria, where the German-based broadcaster also operates.
The notification to the Austrian regulator was required because MFE would be in a position to control a majority of voting rights at ProSieben shareholder meetings, where turnout has been ranging between 53%-56%, sources close to the matter had previously said.
The approval by the Austrian regulator came before ProSieben’s annual general meeting in April, when shareholders will vote upon the appointment of two supervisory board members.
ProSieben suffered a series of setbacks in 2023, slashing its dividend and lowering revenue targets before announcing a write-off on programming assets in December.
That prompted MFE CEO Pier Silvio Berlusconi last month to step up calls for changes at the German company, saying it should find a way to extract value from non-core assets such as e-commerce and dating.