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Swisscom acquires Hungarian broadcast firm

Third time lucky for Swisscom as it looks to acquire businesses abroad (TSR)

Swisscom Broadcast is to buy a 75 per cent stake plus one share in Hungary’s Antenna Hungaria in a deal worth SFr286 million ($228 million).

The leading Swiss telecoms provider said its subsidiary had submitted the most attractive bid, beating off competition from Austria and Australia.

"The acquisition of a 75 percent stake (plus one share) in Antenna Hungaria will give Swisscom Broadcast operational and strategic control of the company," Swisscom said in a statement on Thursday.

The Hungarian state privatisation agency said Swisscom had also agreed to invest 12 billion forints (SFr0.08 billion) in radio and television signal broadcaster Antenna.

The deal, which is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2005, still needs the approval of the Hungarian, European Union and Swiss competition authorities.

"We are very pleased. This is a positive growth opportunity abroad," said Swisscom spokesman Sepp Huber.

The two other companies bidding for Antenna were Autria's ORF and the Australian group Macquarie.

Expansion abroad

Serge Rotzer, an analyst at Zurich Cantonal Bank said cash-rich Swisscom had been looking for some time to make acquisitions abroad.

Swisscom, which has only limited potential for growth in its home market, failed to secure a majority stake in Czech telecoms provider Cesky Telecom earlier this year. An attempt last year to take over Telekom Austria likewise failed.

Rotzer said that while the acquisition of Antenna fitted well with Swisscom Broadcast’s business it would have little impact on profit. "Antenna’s net turnover is SFr10 million so it will have minimal impact," he said.

"There are plans to introduce digital television (DVB-T) across the whole of Hungary in the next few years. The digitalisation of the broadcasting business presents Swisscom Broadcast with the chance to pursue growth opportunities outside Switzerland," Swisscom said in its statement.

It added that Antenna Hungaria was well placed to play a leading role in the migration to digital broadcasting in Hungary.

In 2004, Antenna Hungaria generated revenues of around SFr162 million and earnings before interest and tax (Ebit) of SFr6.2 million. It had a workforce of around 970 staff.

"Swisscom Broadcast will contribute its broad know-how to the company as soon as the purchase is completed," the statement added.

Swisscom Broadcast, which has around 240 employees, approximately 500 transmitter sites and over 1,800 transmitter stations, ensures that radio and television signals are sent out to every corner of Switzerland.

In 2004, the leading transmission infrastructure operator generated revenue of SFr162 million.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Swisscom made net profit of SFr1.6 billion in 2004 on sales of SFr10.1 billion.
The telecoms provider provides full-time employment to 15,477 people.
In 2004, Antenna Hungaria reported earnings of SFr6.2 million on turnover of SFr162 million.
It had a workforce of around 970, which has since fallen to 780.

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