Bundesliga shortlists buyers for partial rights sale, sources say

·2 min read

By Arno Schuetze and Alexander Hübner

FRANKFURT (Reuters) -Germany's top-flight soccer league has drawn up a shortlist of buyout funds, including KKR and Bridgepoint, to buy a 25% stake in its overseas broadcasting rights, people close to the matter told Reuters.

European private equity firm CVC has also advanced to the second round of the auction that could value the Bundesliga's overseas broadcasting rights at roughly 2 billion euros ($2.42 billion), the sources said.

The league's soccer clubs will meet on May 19 to vote on the plans, with a two-thirds majority needed to move to the final phase. Binding bids would be expected by late June, with a deal envisaged in July, the sources added.

The German Football League (DFL), which organises the country's top two leagues, and the bidders declined to comment.

The stake sale, which could be worth up to 500 million euros, would bring outside investors into one of football's biggest leagues at a time when they are contending with a plunge in revenue.

Earnings have shrunk because the Bundesliga is having to stage matches in empty stadiums during the COVID-19 pandemic and international TV networks are struggling with reduced advertising revenue from customers. Earlier this year the DFL put a 25% stake up for sale in a newly created company managing the broadcasting rights outside Germany for more than the next two decades. While a new investor would bring much needed cash to the table, not all football clubs are in favour of sharing proceeds during more than two decades with a buyout group, sources close to the matter said, adding that clubs like Borussia Dortmund have already voiced concerns. Elsewhere, in Italy, several clubs derailed a planned sale of a stake in the Serie A soccer league's broadcasting rights unit to buyout firms CVC and Advent. DFL's overseas broadcasting rights business is expected to generate revenues of 230 million euros in 2020/21 with sales projected to grow by about 8% annually to reach 478 million in the 2029/30 season. Distributable income will rise by 10% annually from 161 million to 385 million over the same period, according to people close to the deal. The DFL is marketing the unit as a play for private equity to not only reap their share from the rights, but also to benefit from commercial partnerships with firms like betting group Tipico, foods group Mondelez or Amazon Web Services. The company also sees potential in over-the-top content (OTT) platforms which stream content directly to consumers like a "BundesligaPass". A virtual Bundesliga, organised jointly with partners such as video games producer EA or esports group ESL, would come on top of the sales expected from the media company's business.

(Editing by David Goodman, William Maclean)