Ministry consent to Pro Plus takeover might be needed after all
The latest development in the protracted acquisition, in which the nod of the competition watchdog is still pending, has the Public Administration Institute at the Ljubljana Faculty of Law disagreeing with the Culture Ministry distancing itself from the case.
The law says that anyone acquiring more than 20% in a media company needs to obtain a permit by the Culture Ministry. Any deals violating this provision are null and void.
The ministry has argued that the Pro Plus takeover by United Group via Slovenia Broadband is not subject to this because Pro Plus, albeit being the full owner, is not a direct publisher of the two TV networks.
The institute disagrees, indicating the law can only be interpreted in a way that also makes it apply to indirect control.
The acquisition has been raising a lot of dust due to United Group already owning Slovenia's biggest cable operator Telemach, but the Competition Protection Agency (AVK) remains to take a position on it.
The parliamentary Culture Committee also ordered the Culture Ministry in October last year to make a substantive decision in the United Group bid.
According to Delo, Slovenia Broadband is checking whether it can revive that permit application procedure at the ministry, but it seems it will have start all over.
In case it is established the ministry was wrong in not taking a decision, the state could be liable to a damages lawsuit.
Culture Minister Tone Peršak stuck to the ministry's position despite the institute's interpretation on Friday.
The minister argued the key opinion would eventually come from the court maintaining the commercial register - it can refuse to enter the new owner of Pro Pluc into the register if it finds that any of the permits are missing.