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Banijay, Zodiak merger talks confirmed

Banijay Group and Zodiak Media are in advanced merger talks.

Marco-BassettiVarious sources have linked the two Europe-based production and distribution giants in recent weeks, and TBI understands Banijay is engineering a deal that would see it emerge the majority partner in a merged entity.

Both production and distribution groups count Italy’s De Agostini as shareholders and the pair are now in due diligence over a tie up.

A Banijay spokeswoman today said: “I can confirm Banijay Group and Zodiak are in discussions regarding a potential merger.”

UK trade Broadcast first reported confirmation of the talks today.

For France-based Banijay, a merger would allow it to re-enter the UK market – a key target for CEO Marco Bassetti (pictured above) – for the first time since splitting with Zig Zag Productions in September 2010.

Banijay is majority owned by Lov Group, which former Endemol France boss Stéphan Courbit oversees. He was recently fined €250,000 (US$281,000) after a judge ruled he had taken advantage of 92-year-old billionaire l’Oreal heir Liliane Bettencourt. The ruling said he had encouraged her to invest in his businesses without her fully understanding what was happening.

Meanwhile, sources have long linked Zodiak and Banijay – described by many as the largest remaining “mid-sized” production groups. De Agostini is Zodiak’s main shareholder and has a minority stake in Banijay.

Following the merger of Endemol, Shine Group and Core Media Group, and Discovery Communications and Liberty Global’s deal to buy All3Media, speculation has intensified.

Marc-Antoine d halluinFurthermore, talk of a tie up has increased in recent weeks, with sources pointing to Zodiak’s move to axe certain jobs recently as a sign CEO Marc Antoine d’Halluin (pictured right) was seeking a structural change.

For Zodiak, the merger would come around five years after it came together with UK production giant RDF Media to form the group as it currently exists. It’s understood the company has been wrestling with a large debt pile.

Banijay owns production groups Nordisk Film TV, Banijay Studios North America, Bunim-Murray Air Producions, Banijay Productions France, H2O Productions, Brainpool, Pineapple Entertainment, Curazo-DLO Producciones, NonPanic, Aurora TV, Ambra Banijay Italia, Screentime, Stephen David Entertainment, Banijay Finland and Respirator.

Zodiak’s global production groups are Zodiak Americas (comprising Zodiak Latino, Zodiak LA and Zodiak New York), Zodiak France (Zodiak Fiction, GTV, ALP, KM Productions, Mona Lisa), Zodiak Kids (Marathon Media, Tele Images Productions, The Foundation), Zodiak MEAA (Sol Production), Zodiak Nordic (Jarowskij, Mastiff Denmark, Mastiff Norway, Mastiff Sweden, Yellow Bird, Zodiak Finland, Zodiak Russia (Mastiff Russia, TeleAlliance) and Zodiak Southern Europe (Magnolia Spain, Magnolia Italy, Zodiak Active).

The London-headquartered company also runs Zodiak UK, Belgium & Netherlands, which comprises Bwark Productions, IWC Media, Red House, Bookhouse, RDF Television, RDF Television West, The Comedy Unit, Touchpaper Television, Zodiak Belgium and Zodiak Nederland. The firm also has a large sales unit, Zodiak Rights.

Zodiak declined to comment.