July 19, 2018 / 9:00 PM / a year ago

Telia close to deal to buy Bonnier TV assets -sources

LONDON, July 19 (Reuters) - Scandinavia's largest telecom operator, Telia, was close to sealing a deal on Thursday to acquire the broadcasting and streaming media business of Swedish publishing firm Bonnier AB, sources familiar with negotiations said.

Telia has pushed for a deal valued below the 10-12 billion Swedish crown ($1.12-$1.35 billion) range that local media reported in May, one source told Reuters.

"It will be less than 10 billion crowns," the source said.

Bonnier, owned by a prominent Swedish family of the same name, operates publishing, e-commerce and film businesses in more than a dozen countries. Broadcast and streaming made up 30 percent of its 25.7 billion crowns in net sales during 2017.

The two parties were close to an agreement and an announcement could come as soon as Friday - subject to last-minute wrangling over price which could still derail a deal, two sources told Reuters.

Swedish magazine Resume reported in May that talks had been under way since last autumn.

The telecoms company confirmed two months ago it was in talks to buy Bonnier's TV business but has declined comment since then. "These discussions continue and we will not make any further comments at this stage," a spokeswoman for Telia said late on Thursday.

Bonnier did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the status of the talks.

Two bankers not directly involved in the deal said Lazard was among the banks advising Telia. A spokeswoman for Lazard declined to comment.

The banking sources said Telia was keen to get the deal done this week.

Bonnier Broadcasting includes Swedish TV4 and streaming service C More and Finnish MTV. It had sales of 7.5 billion Swedish crowns last year and an operating profit (EBITA) of 423 million.

Telia, in the process of completing an exit from its Eurasian businesses, had said previously it is interested in acquisitions in its Nordic core markets and is looking to boost its television and video content.

On Tuesday, Telia said it was buying Danish company TDC's operations in Norway for 21 billion crowns ($2.35 billion) in a deal it said would boost its position as a "strong challenger" in mobile, TV and broadband services.

"Content is an important part of the company’s future strategy," Telia said in its statement in May confirming the talks with Bonnier.

Telia's share price has fallen around 8 percent since then as investors have grown worried its move into media could dilute the focus on its core telecoms business, threatening dividend payouts in the longer term.

The agreed merger of AT&T and Time Warner, giants of the U.S. telecoms and media industries, is the biggest example of a wave of deals to better compete with big internet players.

In Scandinavia this year, Tele2 has agreed to buy cable-TV firm Com Hem, while Modern Times Group said it would split in two, demerging its Nordic TV business and listing it on the stock exchange, after a sale of the unit to Danish telecoms company TDC fell through. ($1 = 8.9056 Swedish crowns) (Reporting by Eric Auchard and Pamela Barbaglia; editing by John Stonestreet)

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