Studios and other creditors are poised to pick choice morsels from the body of the Kirch group. The once glorious German media group this week also flirted with insolvency after it missed a loan repayment.
According to the heavyweight Suedduetsche Zeitung Kirch is seeking to shed part of the debts accumulated at its Premiereworld pay-TV operation by offering the major US studios stakes in the loss-making service. Althought the paper did not name the creditors, Premiere has output deals with all the majors. Said to be $200m in arrears on Premiere alone, Kirch is understood to be offering stakes of around 1%.
It is known to be trying to renegotiate rights contracts with Paramount, Universal and Warner Bros and is facing legal action from Paramount and Universal for withholding payments.
But the studios may be more interested in getting hold of the more profitable free-TV operation ProSiebenSat1. According to the Financial Times investment bankers have held exploratory talks with US studios discussing ways to win control of Kirch's 52.5% stake in publicly listed ProSiebenSat1. The FT named Viacom and AOL Time Warner as bidders and said that Disney, which co-owns channels with rival RTL, would also be an investor. Bids are reported to be being readied with a value of Euros1.6bn ($1.4bn) bid for the stake, valuing the entire company at about Euros3bn, a premium of 45% to ProSiebenSat1's recent shareprice.
Kirch executives have categorically ruled out any possibility of a sale of the company's ProSiebenSat1 holding.
But there was serious talk of insolvency as Kirch missed the first scheduled repayment on a loan from Frankfurt's DZ Bank, said to be a short-term credit line in the millions. Kirch allegedly owes DZ a total Euros398 million ($350 million) from various loans. DZ could file to have Kirch declared insolvent, but is not reported to have plans to do so. Kirch has total debts of some Euros6bn.
Kirch, which this week announced another restructuring of its sports division, is also under pressure to sell its Formula One motor racing stake, having already put on the block holdings in magazine and newspaper Axel Springer and Spanish broadcaster Telecinco.