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Business news, 09.04.2009 14:59

Television Station Gets New Shareholder

tv_petersburg Eurofinance bank has moved into the St. Petersburg television market, purchasing a 23.34-percent stake in local media outlet Petersburg Television.

At an auction for the stake that was held by the Leningrad Oblast Property Committee on Friday, the Eurofinance Group, a subsidiary of the bank by the same name bought the stake for 65 million rubles ($1.98 million) - 2 million rubles higher than the starting price. The other bidder for the stake was Politeks, a company that is listed in the city directory at the same address as the St. Petersburg office of Eurofinance.

Eurofinance Vice President Andrei Galiyev said that the decision behind the purchase of the minority stake in Petersburg Television was based on the banks interest in becoming involved in the local market. He also said that the bank was also interested in acquiring interests in the media sector in other regions.

Galiyev said that it was possible that the bank would later try to increase its presence on the St. Petersburg media market, including in the size of its stake in TRK Petersburg. Acting Governor Alexander Beglov said that the city had not received an offer from the bank to buy any additional shares in the station and that the city presently has no plans to sell any of its shares.

But Eurofinance would be able to raise its stake in Petersburg Television without any help from shares purchased from the city. In June, Eurofinance completed an agreement with Baltinvestbank (formerly Balt-Uneximbank) on an option arrangement by which a controlling share in the latter could be transferred to Evrofinance by the end of this year.

One source close to the deal estimates the chance that Eurofinance will exercise the option at about 80 percent. The addition of the stocks in Petersburg television currently held by Baltinvestbank would put Eurofinance's interest over the 25-percent barrier.

The arrival of the new shareholder has hopes high at Petersburg Television. According to Igor Ignatiyev, the general director of the television company, the channel hopes that the purchase of the minority share will ultimately bring an infusion of between $2 million and $3 million, the figure that he says is necessary to maintain the quality of the station's programming, and to be able to compete with countrywide networks.

But Eurofinance's Galiyev says that " an accurate assessment of the investment neccesary at the channel will take some time."

According to officials at Gazprom Media, a 49-percent stake in which Eurofinance bought last year, the investment in the St. Petersburg media market is unrelated.

"There's no problem with conflict of interests in relation to this deal," the general director of Gazprom-Media, Alexander Dybal, said. "So we can only applaud Eurofinance for finding a promising niche for its investment."

A source close to the presidential representatives office in the Northwest Region, however, said that there was little doubt that the deal was aimed at strengthening the positions of NTV and Gazprom-Media in St. Petersburg.

Roman Mogilevsky, the director of research at the Agency for Social Information, says that Eurofinance's purchase of the stake in Petersburg Television is connected with a shift in the political landscape in St. Petersburg and says that he hopes that the deal will help what was once a very popular television station to overcome it smore recent image as merely a regional outlet that is devoted solely to serving the interests of the St. Petersburg City Administration.

By Anna Shcherbakova, Gleb Krampeets and Anfisa Voronina


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