By Klaus Lauer and Elvira Pollina
BERLIN/FRANKFURT (Reuters) – Initial offers for RTL’s 48% stake in French TV channel M6 are expected by Friday after a failed tie-up with France’s TF1 broadcaster, two people familiar with the matter said.
RTL has been “inundated” with expressions of interest in the M6 stake since TF1 and M6 called off their planned merger last week, its boss Thomas Rabe told the Financial Times on Thursday.
“This is why we are testing the market,” Rabe, who is also CEO of Bertelsmann, was quoted as saying by the FT.
“On the basis of this test we will decide whether to sell or not,” Rabe said.
RTL and its German parent Bertelsmann declined to comment on when the offers were due for the holding in M6, whose shares closed 5% higher at 13.20 euros.
One of the sources said a consortium of high-profile French entrepreneurs including billionaire Rodolphe Saade, Stephane Courbit of TV production group Banijay, and investor Marc Ladreit de Lacharriere was in pole position to clinch a deal.
This source said offers were due in by 1400 GMT on Friday. RTL had no comment.
French shipping group CMA CGM, of which Saade is chairman and which he controls with his family, said it did not comment on market rumours. Reuters could not immediately reach Courbit and Ladreit de Lacharriere for comment.
Other potential buyers include French media group Vivendi and Altice, owned by billionaire Patrick Drahi, alongside Italian media conglomerate MediaForEurope (MFE), Reuters reported on Monday.
Vivendi, Altice and MFE declined to comment.
RTL together with French conglomerate Bouygues, TF1’s main shareholder, ended the plan to merge M6 and TF1 into a national television champion on Friday, saying demands by the French competition authority made it unworkable.
The authorities would only have given the green light to the deal, which was designed to forge a heavyweight in the French television and video streaming market in the face of global competition from Netflix, if either TF1 or M6 was sold.
If RTL wants to sell M6, a deal must be completed by spring 2023, because M6’s broadcasting license comes up for renewal in May. After that, its main shareholder would not be allowed to sell it for five years.
In March 2021, when Bertelsmann confirmed talks to sell its stake, French media reported the RTL’s stake was worth 1.5 billion euros ($1.48 billion), valuing all of M6 at around 3 billion euros.
($1 = 1.0142 euros)
(The story refiles to say sources in headline, not source)
(Reporting by Klaus Lauer in Berlin and Elvira Pollina in Milan; Additional reporting by Gus Trompiz and Mimosa Spencer in Paris; Writing by Emma-Victoria Farr and Silvia Aloisi; editing by Alexander Smith ans David Evans)