Central European Media Enterprises (CME) announced on March 23 that international media and entertainment giant Time Warner will acquire a 31% stake in CME.
Time Warner acquires 19 million shares of CME (www.cetv-net.com) stock for its $241.5 million (€178 million) investment. CME founder Ronald Lauder will vote the Time Warner shares for four years.
CME shares jumped 31% by midday, to $13.14, closing at $14.50, a 45% gain. The stock went as high as $16 in early morning trading, giving it first place ranking on the list of most advanced stocks on NASDAQ, during a day in which stocks across the U.S. climbing.
In a seperate agreement, Warner Bros. and CME will partner to launch and operate thematic channels in CME territories, featuring Warner Bros. TV and film programming.
In a statement, Lauder said, "I'm confident that this alliance with Time Warner will accelerate CME's future development and take it to levels I could only dream of fifteen years ago."
Time Warner Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bewkes stated, “This transaction with CME is a unique opportunity for us to invest in – and partner with – the leading media company in Central and Eastern Europe. While the region has been experiencing the impact of the global economic crisis, we believe CME is ideally positioned over the long term as Central and Eastern Europe returns to significant growth and the media sector in these countries continues to evolve."
CME president and COO Adrian Sarbu followed the announcement with an early first quarter update, noting the "weak trading conditions," and adding, "Advertisers have been cautious with their expenditure in response to rapidly changing conditions and the strength of the US dollar. As a result the first quarter of 2009 has been extremely challenging."
CME expects to report first quarter revenues of $135 million to $145 million and Total Segment EBITDA between $18 million and $22 million, compared to revenues of $223 million and EBITDA of $75 million for the quarter ended March 31, 2008.
CME operates 18 channels in seven CEE countries. It trades on NASDAQ and the Prague Stock Exchange as CETV.