EBRD takes stake in WAZ Media Groups Eastern European operations

By Anthony Williams
@ebrdtony

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) is investing up to €40 million for a stake in the eastern European operations of Germany’s WAZ Media Group. The joint aim is to support the further development of politically and economically independent media in the region

The EBRD believes that the WAZ Group’s drive to foster high quality, professional, independent media supports its own transition mandate in the region. Besides the investment in traditional media, the WAZ Group and the EBRD emphasise the importance of the Internet for fostering sustainable economic development in eastern Europe, particularly through mobile services and online-based companies.

WAZ Media Group, a major German media house, sees a strategic focus on the media industry of eastern Europe and plans further expansion there.

“The development of independent media, bringing high-quality content across the EBRD region, helps to strengthen democracy and build up the knowledge-based economy that is crucial for the future of these countries”, said EBRD President Thomas Mirow. “The EBRD is very happy to support the WAZ Group in this endeavour”, he added.

The WAZ Group sees in the EBRD a strong partner that after 18 years of commitment in the region enjoys an excellent reputation there.

The Managing Director of the WAZ Media Group, Bodo Hombach, who held the diplomatic EU office of Special Coordinator of the Stability Pact for South-Eastern Europe a few years ago, said: “The strict standards, which the EBRD applies to correct trading, its insistence on transparency and its determined disapproval of corruption are great additional elements of self-commitment and self-monitoring particularly for a media company. Media that demand exemplary conduct from others must monitor themselves, and have themselves monitored, very strictly. No-one is more suitable or more experienced for this than our new partner, the EBRD. That is just as important to us as the financial contribution.”

The EBRD will initially invest €20 million for a stake in Ost Holding, the Vienna-based company which manages its media interests in eastern Europe. A further €20 million is being reserved for future capital increases.