Billionaire Usmanov Weighs Television IPO After Mail.Ru, MegaFon

Billionaire Alisher Usmanov is considering an initial public offering of his broadcaster UTH Russia after recent share sales in Internet company Group Ltd. and mobile-phone operator OAO Megafon.

UTH targets a valuation of as much as $1 billion as it plans to reach operating income before depreciation and amortization of $100 million “within several years” by developing more efficient content and increasing audiences, Chief Executive Officer Andrey Dimitrov said in an interview in Moscow. It may hold an IPO in the next two years, he said.

UTH runs three television channels in Russia, including Disney Channel, which is 49 percent owned by Walt Disney Co. UTH, co-owned by MegaFon CEO Ivan Tavrin, also operates entertainment Channel U and music channel Muz-TV, which will get national coverage next year.

UTH increased revenue 15 percent last year to the equivalent of $144 million. In the next couple of years, it plans to grow “faster than the Russian television market, which will probably advance by about 10 percent a year,” Dimitrov said. UTH would use the proceeds from an IPO to fund growth and raise cash for current investor, Dimitrov said.

Disney may have paid about $300 million to acquire its UTH stake in 2011, Kommersant reported at the time.

CTC Media Inc., Russia’s only traded television operator, has a market value of $1.85 billion, or 7.2 times its adjusted Oibda. CTC, part-owned by Sweden’s Modern Times Group AB, has fallen about 16 percent from its 2006 IPO price of $14.

“Many television channels in Russia, especially state-run, are spending millions of dollars to boost audience shares, ignoring profitability,” Dimitrov said. “We are different. Our management’s primary focus is on efficiency, we are constantly looking for good content at lower cost.”

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