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Saad Mohseni, Moby's chairman and chief executive, would be looking to spend millions of dollars buying a TV company . Siddharth Siva for The National
Saad Mohseni, Moby's chairman and chief executive, would be looking to spend millions of dollars buying a TV company . Siddharth Siva for The National

Moby sets sights on Arabian TV

Moby Group, part owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, intends to spend millions of dollars on the acquisition of an Arab television company.

Moby Group, which is part owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, intends to spend millions of dollars on the acquisition of an Arab television company.

The broadcaster, based in Dubai, says it is specifically looking at distressed assets in the region, which could include media companies hit by the advertising downturn following the Arab Spring.

"We are very keen to grow the business through acquisition," said Saad Mohseni, Moby's chairman and chief executive.

"We're looking at distressed assets across the Middle East. Whereas in the past we've established channels from scratch, we are looking to acquire."

He said the company would be looking to spend millions of dollars buying a TV company, although did not specify the names of any potential targets.

"The price very much depends on the market. It depends on the company's history and track record and the opportunity for growth," said Mr Mohseni.

"The advertising market has suffered in [the Middle East and North Africa] over the last two years, mostly because of the Arab Spring, particularly in places like Egypt. So we're looking at a couple of companies."

Moby Group runs several media brands in Afghanistan, including the television stations Tolo TV and Lemar TV, radio stations and a production company.

News Corp holds a minority stake in the company, which it obtained at the beginning of this year by trading its shareholding in Broadcast Middle East (BME). BME, which specialises in Farsi broadcasts, was a joint venture between News Corp and Moby.

Mr Mohseni said in January that News Corp plans to pump funds into Moby Group, which hopes to launch up to five TV stations over the next two years.

He said that News Corp could part-bankroll a possible acquisition in the region.

"That cash will be used to expand the business," said Mr Mohseni. "We're still looking at individual countries in terms of establishing businesses."

Most television stations in the Arab world rely on advertising for revenues. The region's TV advertising market is worth almost US$2 billion (Dh7.34bn), which is expected to grow to $2.4bn by 2015, according to the Arab Media Outlook.

However, advertising has been hit hard in markets such as Egypt, where total spending declined by about 30 per cent last year in the fallout from the Arab Spring.

Mr Mohseni was speaking on the sidelines of the Abu Dhabi Media Summit, which closed yesterday.

The billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates on Tuesday gave the keynote speech at the summit, which also included speakers from international media companies such as Viacom and YouTube.

Mr Gates outlined his plan to help eradicate polio in the few remaining countries the disease is found, including Afghanistan.

Mr Mohseni said he had spoken to the Microsoft founder about helping in the fight against the disease, with the possibility of using his TV channels in Afghanistan to create awareness.

"Bill Gates mentioned the challenge that he faces. What he is doing is very important; he is essentially trying to eradicate polio," he said. "We would be very happy to help in any way we can."

bflanagan@thenational.ae

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