* Talpa to sell stake in RTL Nederland within three years
* To hear from RTL Group next week on its intentions to buy
* Also has option to float stake in 2014
AMSTERDAM, July 22 (Reuters) – Finnish media group Sanoma (SAA1V.HE) and Dutch firm Talpa, owned by media tycoon John de Mol, won clearance from the Dutch authorities to buy free-to-air TV company SBS provided Talpa sells a rival Dutch media asset.
German broadcaster ProSieben (PSMG_p.DE) agreed to sell its Belgian and Dutch assets in SBS for 1.23 billion euros in April to Sanoma and Talpa which, as the junior partner, will acquire a 33 percent stake. [ID:nLDE73J02Z]
But the Dutch competition authority NMa said on Friday that Talpa was ordered to sell a 26.3 percent stake in broadcaster RTL Nederland within three years in order to obtain approval. Talpa bought the stake from its pan-European rival RTL Group AUDK.LU in 2007.
“Talpa, as a producer of TV content, would be able to exclude its competitors from access to SBS and RTL. In addition, this may decrease competition between RTL and SBS, two of the Netherlands’ biggest broadcasters,” NMa board member Henk Don said in a statement.
To ensure Talpa does not exercise influence over RTL Nederland in the meantime, it must transfer its shares to an independent trust until the sale is completed, the NMa said.
A Talpa spokesman said the company understood the reason for the NMa’s decision, adding that it was due to hear from RTL Group next week on whether it would exercise an option to buy Talpa’s stake in RTL Nederland.
“It is a coincidence, this option was agreed when the deal with RTL was done in 2007. If they do not exercise it, we will seek other buyers. The deal with RTL also stipulates that Talpa can list its stake in the stock market in 2014,” he said.
The spokesman did not comment on the value of the stake.
RTL Nederland had earnings before interest tax and amortisation of 110 million euros in 2010, up 52.8 percent from the year before, according to RTL Group’s latest annual report.
Talpa’s De Mol — who ranks 11th on the Dutch rich list, ahead of the royal family — is most famous for creating the international hit television series Big Brother in the late 1990s. (Reporting by Greg Roumeliotis; Editing by Sara Webb)