Rupert Murdoch's News Media, is reportedly interested in acquiring controlling stakes in Latvijas Neatkariga Televizija (LNT) and TV5 commercial television later this year or in early 2006.
In an interview with the Neatkariga Rita Avize daily last week, Vladimir L. Voronoff, president of News Media, a subsidiary of Murdoch's News Corporation, said that his company has been exploring opportunities to buy a controlling stake in LNT.
"It is important for us to be able to buy a controlling stake. At present it is not important whether the controlling stake is 51 percent or 75 percent," he said.
Voronoff, a former Russian diplomat, explained that a deal might be clinched at the end of this year or early next year. "We are not in a hurry. We have to explore the market meticulously and understand what is going on there," he said.
Asked whether Murdoch's company intended to acquire TV5, he said that this was a consideration for the longer-term.
Neatkariga Rita Avize wrote that the present ownership of LNT was not clear, as the stock company is not required to submit the names of its shareholders to the Latvian Business Register. However, judging by the people on the company's board, the controlling stake in the television company, most probably, belongs to Poland's Polsat company.
The Russian language daily Telegraf wrote that a 70 percent stake in TV5 has been acquired by the recently registered TVBerlin firm, while the remaining 30 percent of TV5 shares have been bought by Belokon News, a company owned by businessman Valerijs Belokons.
According to the data of the Latvian Business Register, TVBerlin was included in the register on Aug. 18, and the company's sole owner is Unifors Investment Management Limited, a company registered in the British Virgin Islands.
Data from the TNT BMF media research company suggest that this May, LNT was the most watched channel in Latvia, as the channel drew 19.6 percent of Latvia's total TV audience, while the share of TV5 was 2.9 percent.