Published October 28, 2013
AMC Networks Inc said it would buy Chellomedia, the international content unit of John Malone's Liberty Global Plc, for about $1.04 billion, giving it greater control over the global distribution of its programs.
Liberty Global, the largest cable operator in Europe, said the deal would help it simplify its business and allow it to focus on its core market, the United States.
AMC Networks, home to hit shows such as Mad Men, Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead, has been spending money to develop content and expand programming as it takes on HBO, Time Warner Inc's premium cable TV network.
"It seems like a good deal for AMC. They are basically going from 96 million affiliate subscribers to 500 million affiliate subscribers globally," Albert Fried & Co analyst Rich Tullo told Reuters.
Chellomedia's network channels are distributed to 390 million households in 138 countries, AMC Networks said.
AMC said the businesses being bought include Chello Central Europe, Chello Latin America and Chello Zone.
The network will also acquire Chellomedia's stakes in joint ventures with CBS International, A+E Networks, Zon Optimus and other partners.
Tullo said the deal allows AMC to expand into high-growth eastern European markets, which have good intellectual property protection, and get access to Chellomedia's production assets.
"Chellomedia is an ideal platform ... it provides one, if not the largest, international channel groups not owned by a large content company," AMC Chief Executive Josh Sapan said on a conference call on Monday.
Shares of AMC, which was spun out of Cablevision Systems Corp in 2011, slipped nearly 3 percent, while Liberty's gained 1 percent in morning trading.
Malone, known as the "King of Cable", jumped back into the U.S. cable market earlier this year by buying a 28 percent stake in Charter Communications. Until then, he had been on a decade-long acquisition spree in Europe.
"In our view, the (Chellomedia) disposal improves Liberty's liquidity to potentially help fund acquisitions," J.P. Morgan Cazenove analyst Carl Murdock-Smith said in a research note.
Liberty Global said it would retain Dutch premium channels Film1 and Sport1.
The company recently failed in its bid to buy out Dutch cable firm Ziggo, which rejected the offer as inadequate.
Liberty was also outmaneuvered by Vodafone Group Plc in competing bids for German operator Kabel Deutschland.
Morgan Stanley advised Liberty Global on the deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014. Guggenheim Securities was the adviser for AMC.
(Reporting by Soham Chatterjee and Sruthi Ramakrishnan; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty)