Canal+ takes major stake in struggling Viaplay

Canal+ has taken a 12% stake in struggling Nordic streamer and broadcaster Viaplay Group, which today announced a restructuring plan that will involve withdrawal from key international markets and a 25% reduction in staff.

Viaplay also indicated that it may be open to a sale of the whole group.

The Vivendi-owned French pay TV outfit did not give further details about its plans for Viaplay, in which it is now the largest shareholder. Canal+ has in recent years pivoted towards international expansion both within Europe and further afield.

Its acquisition of a significant stake in Viaplay raised the prospect that the Nordic outfit could become an acquisition target for it as it seeks to expand its presence internationally.

The acquisition of a 12% stake makes Canal+ Viaplay’s largest single shareholder. At the end of last year institutional investors owned approximately 82% of the share capital, with Swedish private individuals owning approximately 10%. The biggest shareholders were Norges Bank, Nordea Funds, Handelsnanken Funds and Schroders.

In France Canal+ is on the brink of completing the acquisition of rival streamer OCS, in which it has a 33% stake. It has also, through its ownership of M7 Group, a significant presence in the Benelux countries and central and eastern Europe.

Elsewhere, Canal+ holds a significant stake in South African pay TV outfit MultiChoice.

Viaplay’s new CEO Jørgen Madsen Lindemann has said that the company will conduct an immediate strategic review of the entire business to consider its options “including content sublicensing, asset disposals, equity injections or the sale of the whole group.”

Viaplay has announced that it will exit the US and UK markets along with Poland and the Baltic States to focus on its core Nordic territories and the Netherlands.

Lindemann said that Viaplay would henceforth focus on its “core Nordic, Netherlands and Viaplay Select operations” as it explores “downsizing, partnering or exiting our other international markets”, which includes the UK, US, Canada and Poland.

The company is to discontinue its low tier non-sports offering in each of these international markets, in order to focus on its sports offering and the sale of non-sports content through its Viaplay Select business.

The streamer’s Q2 results saw sales rise but operating income plummet and net income turn to a loss of SEK5.8 billion as the downturn in the advertising market and lower than expected streaming numbers undermined its growth projections.

Viaplay now expects full year group operating losses of at least $83m for 2023, before a possible return to profitability in 2024.

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