Gazprom expands media business with Profmedia acquisition
In a joint statement on Tuesday, Gazprom, Russia's state-controlled gas export monopoly, was revealed to have acquired Profmedia. Profmedia is owned by metals tycoon Vladimir Potanin. The newest acquisition of Gazprom signaled the company's focus on its already considerable media empire. The terms of the acquisition deal were not disclosed, but the joint statement by Gazprom and Potanin's investment company Interros read that the acquisition will be completed at the beginning of next year and is subject to regulatory approvals.
The former Soviet gas ministry, through the deal, will be making new asset additions in its media portfolio in the form of radio and television stations, cinemas, film production and distribution. Gazprom's media portfolio has commercial television channel NTV as its main asset.
Gazprom acquired NTV from exiled media tycoon Vladimir Gusinsky in 2000. Gusinsky was forced to leave his home country after the highly-critical coverage by the television channel of the Kremlin early in President Vladimir Putin's first years as the head of Russia. NTV under Gazprom's media division however, had shed its earlier reputation as an independently-run television station. The television network ran documentaries throughout the 2011-2012 election season that targeted political opponents of Putin.
Investors have criticized Gazprom's moves to expand its media portfolio as it was said to be straying from its core business. Nonetheless, Gazprom pursued to build its media empire and had been keeping broadcast, print and online outlets in politically safe hands.
Gazprom's media business also owns NTV-Plus, a satellite TV company. It also owns all-talk station Ekho Moskvy under its radio segment. Gazprom Media also has interests in cinemas, advertising sales, online portals, magazines, newspapers and film production.
Recently, Putin's former minister for press and mass communications Mikhail Lesin was appointed as the new chief to run the media division of Gazprom. In 2012, Gazprom Media recorded revenues of RUB52.3 billion or USD1.6 billion, which is roughly one-hundredth of the total sales of Gazprom.