Emmis Acquires Slovak Station

Many international companies have found the Slovak Republic to be a home for profitable enterprises with long-term prospects for growth. U.S.-based Emmis Communications, recognizing this environment, recently said it would buy private radio market network Rádio Expres.
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Many international companies have found the Slovak Republic to be a home for profitable enterprises with long-term prospects for growth. U.S.-based Emmis Communications, recognizing this environment, recently said it would buy private radio market network Rádio Expres.

Slovakia joined the EU in May of last year. Part of Czechoslovakia until the early 1990s, the country now has a population of about 5.5 million. It is between Hungary and Poland, adjacent to the Czech Republic and Austria.

The broadcaster, headquartered in Bratislava, airs popular music, news and entertainment over 32 stations nationally.

Profitable business

Emmis bought Rádio Expres and an affiliated tower company for $14 million, taking over from key shareholder and parent company D. Expres. The sale made it possible for the seller to pay off all original Rádio Expres investors - including the European Union and several western European banks - as well as to turn a profit. "We are satisfied with the purchasing price," said D. Expres General Manager Václav Mika.

Emmis International President Paul Fiddick stated that Slovakia fits the group's strategy because it presents an opportunity to "leverage" other international Emmis successes in one of the fastest developing economies in the world.

When Emmis announced the planned purchase, the sub-headline of its press release was "Addition Grows International Holdings in One of the World's Hottest Economies."

The parties signed a buyout agreement on Jan. 11; the deal was expected to close in the spring. It was subject to approval by the Slovak media regulator.

Established in 2000 as a six-frequency company, Rádio Expres quickly grew profitable. Some here considered the station was regarded as the most innovative in the country. A November poll by the media research department of a public broadcaster showed that Rádio Expres was the most popular private station in the country.

Rádio Expres traffic reports gained a large audience, as did its format of popular music, news and entertainment.

At the beginning of 2004, the founders decided the time had come to sell. Emmis beat out French company Lagardère Active Radio International for the buyout.

Emmis Communications is an Indianapolis-based firm with radio, television and magazine publishing operations. Its portfolio includes nine FM stations in Belgium and a 59.5 percent interest in Hungarian station Sláger Rádió.

Rádio Expres listeners should notice no difference in the programming despite the change in ownership, participants said. According to Mika, the Emmis management style is similar to that of D. Expres.

For its part, Emmis said it had no reason to change the "winning formula" of Rádio Expres, whose 95 employees are staying on after the acquisition.

Rádio Expres focuses on weather, traffic and news for foreign tourists, whose numbers have been on the increase in the Slovak Republic. Its main target audience is, however, the active 20- to 40-year-old population with a dynamic lifestyle.

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