23 Sep 2017
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Euronews first European news network to be controlled by a mogul from the ME

MUMBAI: Egyptian billionaire and businessman Naguib Sawiris has agreed to pick up a majority stake in the television channel Euronews.

Sawiris will buy 53 per cent stake in the channel in the context of a capital increase of $39 million. He will now join existing shareholders, which includes 23 public broadcasting bodies.

The executive board of Euronews has approved the Sawiris bid, but the deal could face regulatory opposition.

Over 20 European public broadcasters have equity stakes in Euronews, with France Television and Italy’s RAI being the largest shareholders. Russia’s VGTRK group and Turkish channel TNT are also major shareholders. The Sawiris deal would change that structure and make Euronews the first major European news network to be controlled by a mogul from the Middle East.

Sawiris declared in a video conference that he intends to maintain Euronews’ neutrality. He explained that capital injection will be used to expand the channel’s digital activities and also announced plans to revamp Euronews, saying that it is time to prepare it for the ‘next generation’.

“There is no doubt that it takes three, four or five years to gain revenues, but I’m not pursuing a quick gain. The age group watching TV targets those of 40 years and older, so if we do not prepare for the next generation with an increased focus on the digital world and social communication, the channel may be jeopardised within 20 or 30 years,” he said.

Euronews chairman Philippe Cayla, said in a statement, “The arrival of Naguib Sawiris would be a tremendous asset to Euronews, as this investment would allow a quick implementation of our development plan, while maintaining our European public mission heritage.”

Euronews CEO Michael Peters said the channel is trying to compete with many of the giants but does not have the resources to invest heavily in digital activities. He added that multi-languages channel revenues now come from a variety of sources, including funding from the European Union (EU); the public and private sectors; advertising; distribution rights and license fees from shareholders.

Sawiris is part of the family behind Orascom Group and is considered Egypt’s second richest man. He has been trying to break into Europe for several years now. In 2012, he made an unsuccessful attempt to buy a stake in Telecom Italia.

Euronews was established in 1992 and is based in Lyon, France. The channel aims to create a news network providing information from a European perspective. The first broadcast was on 1 January 1993 from Lyon. The channel was founded by a group of nine European public broadcasters and Egypt’s ERTU (Egyptian Radio and Television Union).