State okays Bite Lietuva takeover of TV3, LNT and Star FM

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The Cabinet of Ministers on July 25 authorized UAB BITE Lietuva, Lithuanian company controlled by the U.S. investment company Providence Equity Partners, to acquire decisive influence in Latvian companies TV3 Latvia, Latvijas Neatkariga Televizija, and Star FM.

The Competition Council still has to okay the deal.

According to the government, the three Latvian media hold a substantial share of the Latvian media market and are important to national security of Latvia. According to the National Security Law, obtaining decisive influence (or 100 percent of shares) in such companies requires the Cabinet of Ministers' permission.

Said provision in the National Security Law came into force on March 29, and this is the first such acquisition deal that had to be considered by the government.

Before taking the decision, the Cabinet analyzed information provided by national security authorities, Bite Lietuva, and other sources.

According to the State Chancellery, based on information available to the chancellery, Bite Lietuva is acquiring all MTG Broadcasting AB companies in Latvia.

The Competition Council has been looking into the merger report since end-May.

As reported, MTG announced at end-March that it had sold its broadcasting businesses in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to Providence Equity Partners.

MTG said the cash transaction values 100 percent of the business at an enterprise value of EUR 115 million, and the sale reflects MTG's ongoing transformation from traditional national broadcaster into a global digital entertainer.

MTG has been operating in Latvia since 1998 and owns five TV channels (TV3, TV3+, TV6, Kanals 2 and LNT) here as well as a radio station, StarFM, and Internet portals Tvplay and Skaties. MTG also owns TV company Viasat Eesti and three TV channels (TV3, TV3+, TV6) in Estonia, and runs TV channels TV3, TV3+, TV6 and Viasat Sport Baltic in Lithuania.

Providence Equity Partners controls the Baltic mobile telecommunications company Bite Group and has a 28.5 percent stake in the Internet and cable television company Baltcom.

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