Time Warner Said to Be Frontrunner in Bid for Calik’s ATV

Time Warner Inc., the owner of HBO and Warner Bros. film studio, is in talks to buy Turkey’s ATV television network from Calik Holdings AS, three people with knowledge of the situation said.

Time Warner’s bid is about $1 billion, though the discussions could still fall apart, said one of the people, who asked not to be named because the talks are private.

Talks accelerated recently with Time Warner as the front-runner, according to one of the people. Dubai-based buyout firm Abraaj Capital Ltd. is the other bidder for ATV, two of the people said. Istanbul-based Calik hired Goldman Sachs Group Inc. early last year to help sell its media business, which includes ATV and Sabah newspaper. Time Warner, which will spin off its magazine unit later this year, is only interested in the television channel, according to two of the people.

Time Warner and Abraaj are the remaining bidders in a process that has been going on almost a year, placing binding bids for the group’s television channel last May. Calik’s TV assets have attracted media companies looking to foreign investments to spur sales growth as it becomes harder to add subscribers in their fully developed domestic markets.

ATV television channel was spun off from the remaining media units of Calik that include newspapers and magazines to allow for a separate sale, one of the people said.

Time Split

Keith Cocozza, a spokesman for Time Warner, declined to comment on the deal. Serhat Albayrak, head of Calik’s media unit, didn’t respond to phone calls seeking comment. A spokeswoman for Goldman Sachs declined to comment.

Time Warner, based in New York, recently announced plans to split off its poorly performing Time Inc. magazine group after a failed attempt to form a joint venture with publisher Meredith Corp. The company, led by Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Bewkes, had a 21 percent gain in operating income in the quarter ended in December, driven by growth in fees paid by cable and satellite services that carry its programming, such as HBO.

Calik, which has interests in energy, construction, finance and telecommunications, paid the government $1.25 billion for Turkey’s second-biggest media group after winning loans from state-run banks and its Qatari partner in 2008. The company is managed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s son-in-law, Berat Albayrak.

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