Macquarie seals £166m BBC Broadcast deal

Australia’s Macquarie Bank and a private equity affiliate have won the auction of BBC Broadcast, the digital media services arm of British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC).

BBC Broadcast has been acquired in a £166 million (€249 million; $304 million) deal that sees Macquarie Capital Alliance Group, an investment affiliate of Australia’s Macquarie Bank, take a 65 percent stake in the business.

Macquarie Bank itself is acquiring the remaining 35 percent. BNP Paribas is arranging and underwriting £100 million of debt facilities for the deal. 

Creative Broadcast Services [the Macquarie bid vehicle] made the BBC a great offer and showed real capabilities in managing a contractual long-term partnership with a commitment to growing and investing in the business,” said BBC chief operating officer John Smith in a statement.

News of Macquarie’s success means that two London-based private equity firms will be left kicking their heels. Apax Partners, which counts former BBC director Greg Dyke among its advisers, missed out along with Exponent Private Equity, which raised a debut €400 million fund last year. A shortlist of four was completed by French electronics group Thomson-Technicolor.

BBC Broadcast, the body responsible for transmitting all the BBC’s television channels, was first put up for sale last December and received 18 preliminary bids, 11 of them from private equity firms. The move caused controversy, with trade unions protesting that the unit should remain in-house.

Creative Broadcast Services made the BBC a great offer and showed real capabilities in managing a contractual long-term partnership with a commitment to growing and investing in the business.

John Smith, chief operating officer, BBC

BBC Broadcast’s services include the design and production of promotional trailers for television programmes, a “playout” function that turns content into a steam of data ready for transmission, subtitling and sign language. The firm, which will be renamed over the coming months, earns more than 90 percent of its revenues from BBC contracts and has an agreement to continue providing services until the end of 2015.

In May, Macquarie Capital Alliance Group led a consortium that acquired Yellow Brick Road, the pan-European directories group, in a €1.8 billion buyout from 3i and Veronis Suhler Stevenson.