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22.11.2008 Business & Finance

Sweden's MTG eyes Ghana

By myjoyonline

Swedish media company Modern Times Group plans to start a new free-to-air TV station in Ghana soon, to be followed with more ventures in sub-Saharan Africa.

Hans Holger Albrecht, chief executive told Reuters MTG, which has focused on broadcasting in eastern Europe and Russia, was looking to Africa for growth after 2011 when its current core markets may start to slow.

The revelation followed rumours MTG might buy Alfa Group's stake in Russian TV company CTC Media or any of News Corp's assets in eastern Europe, to which he answered no.

Asked whether MTG might acquire Alfa's 26 percent holding in CTC Media, Russia's largest TV network wholly outside state control, Albrecht replied: "No." MTG owns 40 percent of CTC.

"We have a partnership that's very good. They have no intention to sell," he added in an interview on the fringes of Morgan Stanley's Technology, Media and Telecoms conference.

Alfa Group is a private-equity vehicle of billionaire Mikhail Fridman.

Russian business daily Kommersant reported earlier this year that Alfa Group might sell its shares to MTG or swap them for a stake in the Swedish group.

Albrecht added that MTG had no interest in buying News Corp's TV stations in Bulgaria or Latvia, and believed they were no longer for sale.

"I think that's all pulled back, as far as I know. They're not selling it any more, rumours are saying," he said.

In any case, Albrecht said MTG was already strong enough in Bulgaria and would probably be prevented by antitrust concerns from buying more assets in Latvia.

Murdoch has expressed nervousness about Russia recently and may put its outdoor advertising business there into a joint venture with JCDecaux, but Albrecht said he was not unduly worried about political risks in Russia.

He said in terms of structure, security and legal systems, the country was generally becoming more stable, and added that the Russian market was generally strong, though next year might be hard.