BERLIN/MILAN (Reuters) -Austria's competition regulator on Thursday approved MFE-MediaforEurope's plan to increase its direct stake in ProSiebenSat.1 and be in a position to exercise effective sole control of the German-based broadcaster. The review, launched in December, can be closed given assurances from MFE that ProSieben's Austrian operation would retain editorial independence, among other conditions, the BWB regulator said in a statement. MFE, the commercial broadcaster controlled by the family of former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, first invested in ProSieben in 2019, becoming the German group's top investor as part of a strategy to build a pan-European TV platform.
MFE-MediaforEurope is growing "impatient" and "sceptical" over ProSiebenSat.1 CEO Bert Habets' strategy to revamp the company, a source close to the German TV group's leading investor said on Wednesday. On Tuesday, ProSieben said it would invest more in local content for its streaming platform Joyn and announced a write-off on programming assets. ProSieben declined to comment and referred to Habets' remarks on Tuesday, citing his confidence in the ability of the company to attract advertising customers.
The leading investor in ProSiebenSat.1 said the German broadcaster was underperforming and should look to cash in on its digital and e-commerce businesses to focus more on TV and entertainment. "The situation in Germany is complicated due to a challenging economic environment ... but the ProSiebenSat TV business is performing below the market," MFE-MediaForEurope CEO Pier Silvio Berlusconi told reporters at a press briefing on Wednesday. MFE, which began investing in Prosieben in 2019 and now holds a 29% stake in its German peer, has repeatedly said it considers its investment as strategic as part of its ambition to build a pan-European TV platform.