French TV heavyweight Canal Plus has officially increased its shareholding in Viaplay to 29% after the beleaguered Swedish media and entertainment company completed its SEK 4 billion ($382.4 million) recapitalization plan today.
The plan also includes a SEK2 billion write-down of existing debt obligations, of which SEK500 million are converted to equity.
As a result of its participation in Viaplay’s recapitalization, Canal Plus will increase its stake in the company from 12% to 29.33%, becoming its largest shareholder (a move to a stake of over 25% was first outlined in early January).
Maxime Saada, Canal Plus Group chairman and chief executive, has said: “Canal Plus Group welcomes the successful completion of Viaplay’s recapitalization. With a sound capital structure, a clear plan forward, and a new and committed management team, Viaplay has laid the ground for a successful turnaround.
“Our group’s support to Viaplay is a new testimony to our ambition to become a global player in video entertainment and extend the group’s footprint internationally, with a focus on Europe, Africa, and Asia, as also shown very recently by our offer to acquire the entire share capital of MultiChoice Group and our investment in leading Asian steaming platform Viu last year.”
Vivendi-owned Canal Plus, which helps to distribute Viaplay in European regions such as Poland and Austria through its regional networks, purchased its initial 12% stake in Viaplay in July 2023, amid a slate of redundancies and business contractions made by the entertainment company.
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PPF Group, a European investment firm based in Prague, Czech Republic that acquired 6% in Viaplay last August, will also take its stake in the firm to almost 30%.
It was reported at the time of Canal Plus’ initial investment that Viaplay was considering a full sale. This outcome seems more likely now that the major investors have raised their stakes to nearly 60% cumulatively, with Canal Plus aiming to use this to help towards its aim of having a presence in over 50 countries globally.
This week has already seen, Schibsted, the Norwegian media group, withdraw its short-lived investment in Viaplay after it was not included in the recapitalization plan.
That company acquired a 10.1% stake in crisis-hit Viaplay in September for NOK 380 million ($35.9 million), before the share price plunged. At the end of 2023, the shares were only worth NOK 43 million.
Schibsted chief executive Kristin Skogen Lund described the investment as “risky” and declared that “it no longer makes sense for us to pursue this.”
At its peak, Viaplay operated in as many as 13 countries, including the US and the UK, but has now divested completely from many of these, consolidating its operations around Scandinavia.
In November, Viaplay completely divested from the UK, selling the business it had purchased from Premier Sports in 2022 back to its original owner at a loss.
The media group has also announced it will be shutting down its direct-to-consumer business in the US and Canada later this month amid a company-wide drive to scale down operations.
In July, Viaplay announced that it was laying off 25% of its total workforce, around 450 people, as part of a set of restructuring moves slated to cost around $4 million.
The financially embattled company reported a third-quarter net loss of SEK693 million, with its share price reaching a new low of SEK4.68.
Earlier this week, meanwhile (as mentioned above), MultiChoice, the South Africa-based media group, rejected a full takeover offer from Canal Plus.
MultiChoice said it would not continue talks with the French broadcaster after its board declared that the offer significantly undervalued the company.