Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris is planning to divest his majority stake in broadcaster Euronews to Portuguese investment firm Alpac Capital, the European international news media company said.
Venture capital fund Alpac Capital made a binding offer to acquire 88 per cent of the Euronews' shares that are owned by Mr Sawiris' holding company Media Global Networks (MNG), Euronews said in a statement on Friday. It did not disclose the sale value.
"My driving ambition has always been to see Euronews succeed. We invested in the media because we saw its potential and we were proven right," Mr Sawiris, exiting chairman of Euronews’ supervisory board and chairman of MGN, said. "I am proud of the milestones accomplished and delighted that the work put in at all levels of the company are being recognised."
The move comes after Mr Sawiris told The National last month about his plans to exit the loss-making business. In 2015, the billionaire acquired a 53 per cent stake in Lyon-based Euronews through MGN and boosted his shareholding in 2017 to 60 per cent and further in 2020. He described the news channel then as "the most neutral news channel in Europe or in the western world".
The news channel provides multilingual news to more than 440 million homes in 160 countries. It has 12 cross-platform language editions, including 9 TV editions.
The deal is expected to be finalised in the first quarter of 2022, depending on the successful completion of final condition precedents and approvals, Euronews said.
Michael Peters, chief executive of Euronews since 2011, will become chairman of the board.
"As we look to the future with confidence, the decision by European investor Alpac Capital to buy MGN’s stake in Euronews is a vote of confidence in our strategy and our unique consumer offering in today’s media landscape," Mr Peters said. "I am confident in the future of Euronews."
The remaining 12 per cent of Euronews shares will continue to be held by other shareholders including International Media Investments, according to its website.
"I am deeply convinced that Euronews, because of the quality of its teams and its potential, can be the place where all the voices of Europe are expressed," Pedro Vargas David, chief executive of Alpac Capital, said.
"In the coming months we will have to build a resolutely digital project, so that with this transformation, Euronews can take its rightful place in Europe.”
After posting a loss last year, Euronews group's operating profit improved in 2021 by almost 20 per cent compared with budget, the company said in a statement. Revenue diversification activity grew more than 400 per cent, which contributed to the growth, in addition to a 43 per cent increase in advertising revenues overall and a 67 per cent rise in digital advertising.
Advertising sales of Euronews fell 40 per cent in 2020 in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and it recorded losses of €16 million ($18m) over that year, Reuters reported, citing a media call with Mr Peters. The Lyon-based company forecasts losses of €13-€14m this year, with total revenue of €62m.
Annual losses are expected to narrow to €8m in 2022, due to new revenue streams from franchising agreements and partnerships, Mr Peters said on the call with reporters.