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Mergers: Commission approves PPF’s acquisition of CME

The European Commission has approved unconditionally, under the EU Merger Regulation, the proposed acquisition of Central European Media Enterprises ("CME") by PPF Group NV ("PPF"). The Commission concluded the transaction would raise no competition concerns in the European Economic Area (“EEA”).

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PPF and CME are both active in the acquisition of sports broadcasting rights in Czechia and Slovakia and in the sale of advertising space in Czechia. In parallel, the two companies are active at different levels of the TV value chain. CME is mainly active as a wholesale supplier of TV channels in a number of Member States, while PPF offers retail audio-visual and telecommunications services in Bulgaria, Czechia and Slovakia.

The Commission’s investigation

During its investigation, the Commission received feedback from a large number of customers and competitors.

Based on its market investigation, the Commission found that the transaction, as notified, would not impact the companies’ position in these markets. This is because the companies generally do not compete for the acquisition of the same sports rights and the transaction would only lead to a limited increase in PPF’s existing share of the market. Similarly, PPF’s activities represent a negligible share and would not add significantly to CME’s position in the market for the sale of advertising space in Czechia.

Given that PPF and CME are mainly active at different levels of the TV value chain, the Commission also assessed whether, as a result of the proposed transaction:

  • PPF would be able to prevent or significantly limit the access of its competitors to CME’s channels in Czechia. The Commission concluded that these possible concerns were not founded, because pay TV distributors would continue to have access to content from CME’s competitors and multiple alternative channels with comparable programming and audiences in Czechia. Moreover, PPF has an incentive to keep CME’s channels broadly available.
  • PPF would prevent competing TV channels from accessing its distribution platform in Czechia. The Commission found that this was unlikely, as it would reduce the quality of PPF’s pay TV offering.
  • CME would cease supplying TV advertising space to PPF’s competitors in Bulgaria, Czechia and Slovakia. The Commission found that the merged entity would not be able nor have the economic incentive to cease supplying advertising space to PPF’s competitors. The Commission also found that sufficient alternative TV channels with comparable audiences and a comparable advertising inventory would remain on the market.
  • PPF would no longer acquire advertising space from CME’s competitors in Bulgaria, Czechia and Slovakia. The Commission found that PPF would continue to purchase advertising space from third parties and that TV broadcaster would in any event have sufficient other customers of TV advertising space.

The Commission therefore concluded that the transaction would raise no competition concerns in the EEA and cleared the case unconditionally.

Companies and products

PPF is headquartered in the Netherlands and is a multinational finance and investment group focusing on financial services, consumer finance, telecommunications, biotechnology, retail services, real estate and agriculture.

CME is headquartered in Bermuda and is a media and entertainment company which, through its subsidiaries, is active in TV broadcasting and other media sectors, in a number of Central-Eastern European countries.

Merger control rules and procedures

The transaction was notified to the Commission on 1 September 2020.

The Commission has the duty to assess mergers and acquisitions involving companies with a turnover above certain thresholds (see Article 1 of the Merger Regulation) and to prevent concentrations that would significantly impede effective competition in the EEA or any substantial part of it.

The vast majority of notified mergers do not pose competition problems and are cleared after a routine review. From the moment a transaction is notified, the Commission generally has 25 working days to decide whether to grant approval (Phase I) or to start an in-depth investigation (Phase II).

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