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RTL Group retains controlling stake in French broadcaster Groupe M6

The French broadcaster Groupe M6.
The French broadcaster Groupe M6. Copyright M6 Groupe
Copyright M6 Groupe
By David Mouriquand
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RTL Group retains controlling stake in French broadcaster Groupe M6

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It’s a no go for the sale of the French broadcaster Groupe M6.

RTL Group has decided to keep its near-controlling stake (48.3 per cent) in the French channel following a planned mega-merger with M6 and competitor TF1, which fell through amid antitrust concerns.

Last month, RTL Group confirmed it was entertaining offers for the French commercial channel and stated it received “several financially attractive offers” for its shareholding in Groupe M6, the third most-watched TV channel in France and the country’s most profitable private network. But after testing the market, Thomas Rabe, CEO of RTL parent Bertelsmann, has said that M6 is no longer on the auction block due to concerns over regulatory hurdles.

The company was believed to be courting offers from three major bidders, including Xavier Niel, the French billionaire behind the telecom group Iliad, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s MFE-MadeForEurope, as well as a consortium including Stéphane Courbit, chairman of TV powerhouse Banijay, Rodolphe Saadé, the French shipping billionaire, and Marc Ladreit de Lacharrière, chairman of the investment vehicle Fimalac. There were also reports of interest from Czech businessman Daniel Kretinsky, who is a shareholder in French newspaper Le Monde.

A monolith to compete with streamers

Any sale would reshuffle the power dynamics of the entire European television industry. 

RTL and France’s Bouygues Group, which holds a 44 percent stake in TF1, had planned to combine M6 and TF1 to create a supercharged French commercial broadcaster that would have the size and financial resources to compete with international streamers such as Netflix and Disney+.

But they dropped the deal after French competition authorities said they would only approve the merger if the groups sold off one of the two networks’ flagship channels: either TF1 or M6.

“Groupe M6 is one of the best-run TV companies in Europe with an excellent management team, led by its CEO Nicolas de Tavernost. In 2021, Groupe M6 achieved record operating results. We will continue to pursue our strategy to build national media groups of sufficient size to compete with the US platforms,” Rabe said in a statement.

RTL Group now considers the legal risks and uncertainties to be too high, due to the required approval processes from the antitrust and media authorities, and the timing for the upcoming license renewal for the main channel M6.

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