Bulgarian media owners have taken centre stage in the latest round of M&As in Central and Eastern Europe.
In a development which took many industry observers by surprise, the Greek incumbent OTE announced earlier this week that it had sold its entire stake in Telekom Albania to the Bulgarian company Albania Telecom Invest for €50 million.
Up until now, it had been believed that Telekom Albania might be taken over Telekom Srbija, which has in recent months embarked on an acquisition spree both in its home market and in neighbouring countries. However, there was a high degree of political sensitivity involved in a potential deal and in the end it failed to materialise.
Clearly this did not apply in the case of Albania Telecom Invest, whose main shareholders are Spas Roussev and Elvin Guri. The former is a well-known Bulgarian entrepreneur who has also controlled Vivacom, the country’s incumbent telco, for the last three years, while the latter is an Albania-Bulgarian investor and CEO of Empower Capital.
Also this week, it was reported that Spas Roussev is in the frame to buy the Bulgarian national commercial broadcaster Nova TV from Modern Times Group (MTG). However, he is in direct competition to do so with Kiril Domuschiev, another Bulgarian entrepreneur.
Nova TV is MTG’s last asset in Central and Eastern Europe and in 2018 the Swedish company agreed its sale to Petr Keller, the owner of the Czech PPF Group, for €185 million. However, the deal was opposed by Bulgaria’s Competition for the Protection of Competition (CPC) and terminated by MTG at the beginning of this month.
CPC favours a local buyer for, or at least some local involvement in, Nova TV and Spas Roussev, with the backing of an unnamed foreign consortium, is arguably in pole position to strike a deal.
MTG, which has completely changed the focus of its business in the last few years, is keen to exit the CEE region and will probably be looking to complete a sale as soon as possible.