Broadcaster ProSieben sells assets as owners mull exit from the firm

German broadcaster ProSieben has sold its Belgian and Dutch assets for €1.23bn (£1.1bn), allowing it to pay down debt ahead of a possible exit by its owners.

ProSieben, controlled by private equity firms KKR and Permira, said yesterday it has sold the unit to a consortium led by Finnish media group Sanoma. The sale comes four years after Munich-based ProSieben bought SBS Broadcasting as it tried and failed to create a pan-European rival to RTL Group.

The deal saddled the German group with a pile of debt, which stood at €3.02bn by the end of 2010, and led chief executive Thomas Ebeling to start a strategic review. ProSieben aims to improve its ratio of net debt to EBITDA to 1.5-2.5 in the short to medium term, from 3.3 times at the end of last year.

Cleaning up its balance sheet is seen as a precondition to a potential exit by owners KKR and Permira.

The two private equity companies own about 88 per cent of ProSieben’s common shares and 18 per cent of preferred shares, which lack voting rights, via investment vehicle Lavena Holding. Only the preferred stock is currently listed.