Naguib Sawiris seeks 53% stake in Euronews

DetailsRebecca Hawkes | 02 March 2015

Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, who plans to acquire a 53% stake in Euronews, said his cash injection of 35 million and a stronger digital offering will help elevate the broadcaster's position.

Sawiris, CEO of Orascom Group, will join the 23 public broadcasters that comprise the shareholders of the multilingual TV channel Euronews.

The European news channel's executive board has endorsed the proposed acquisition, but the deal is yet to be approved by regulatory bodies.

Telling reporters that those aged 40 or over are the only ones who now watch linear television, Sawiris added: "If we don't prepare Euronews for the next generation by putting more emphasis on the digital world and social media, the very existence of this channel in 20 or 30 years might be jeopardised".

Philippe Cayla, chairman of Euronews, added: "The arrival of Naguib Sawiris would be a tremendous asset to Euronews, as this investment would allow a quick implementation of our development plan, while maintaining our European public mission heritage."

Sawiris has assured stakeholders that he would carefully respect the editorial independence and the mission of general interest of Euronews should his investment receive approval.

Euronews' CEO Michael Peters also told reporters that changes would be made to the broadcaster's make-up. Veto rights would be established for shareholders such as France Television and Italy's RAI on editorial issues, and an independent trust body similar to that of the BBC would be created.

Some journalists will be appointed to drive the digital changes, however Peters said: "We are clearly a David competing against a lot of Goliaths. We didn't have any resources to invest massively into digital as we all have to do."

Euronews' revenue comes from EU funding, private and public clients, advertising, distribution rights and licence fees from public shareholders. The latter's contribution has dropped from 50% of the total a decade ago to less than 4% now, said Peters.

The channel was established in 1993 by European public broadcasters as an alternative to CNN.