Time Warner launches $1.37-bn unsolicited bid for Dutch TV producer Endemol

Time Warner Inc, the second-largest cable-television operator in the US, has made an €1 billion ($1.37 billion) unsolicited bid for Endemol, the debt-ridden Dutch television production company behind hit reality TV shows like "Big Brother" and "Deal or No Deal," according to several media reports.

Following earlier reports of the deal, Endemol spokesman Charlie Gardner yesterday confirmed the bid and said that the offer from Time Warner has not come as a surprise.

Endemol, which has a debt load of about $2.75 billion left over from a 2007 buyout led by Mediaset SpA of Italy (Mediaset is controlled by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi) and Goldman Sachs, is close to finalising a restructuring deal with its lenders, which includes debt-for-equity swap, leaving the lenders with some equity in Endemol.

Endemol's largest creditors include the private equity firms Apollo Management, Centerbridge and Providence Equity Partners, and banks such as Barclays, Goldman Sachs, Royal Bank of Scotland and the Lehman estate.

Mediaset, Goldman Sachs and Cyrte, the investment vehicle of Endemol's co-founder Jon de Mol, bought the television production company in 2007 for €2.6 billion through highly leveraged loans, including €325 million of mezzanine debt.

De Mol originally sold the company to Telefonica in 2000 for €5.5 billion. It then floated 25 per cent of the company on the Dutch stock exchange in 2005.

Founded in 1994, Amsterdam-based Endemol is famous for producing reality and game shows including Big Brother, Deal or No Deal and Fear Factor.

It also has a library of almost 2,500 program formats and produces regional versions of its shows in several languages, in many countries, including the US, Brazil, France, Germany, Italy, the Middle East, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain.