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UAE law firm issues apology over OSN sale claim

The questionable information was circulated to the news media in the UAE last week through a press release as part of a research report on the M&A sector in the Middle East.

Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla has issued an apology over a claim in its research report that Middle East’s pay-TV service provider OSN is sold to an unnamed US company, according to an e-mail statement received by TRENDS from the UAE law firm.

A spokesperson from Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla says: “Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla would like to clarify that our recent analysis regarding M&A activity in the Middle East was based on data from Thomson ONE Analytics, part of Thomson Reuters.

“The data comprised announced deals as of December 14, 2014, including the proposed sale of OSN. Thomson Reuters’ criteria for announced deals include deals that are completed, intended, partially completed, pending and unconditional.

We apologize for any unintended misunderstanding regarding the status of OSN’s proposed sale,” says the e-mailed statement.

Earlier, Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla claimed in a press release that OSN has been sold for $3.2 billion. The press release was distributed by public relations company ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, which handles PR accounts of both OSN and Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla.The press release was carried as a news report in some UAE media organizations.

The questionable information was circulated to the news media in the UAE last week through a press release as part of a research report on the M&A sector in the Middle East.

On Sunday, OSN categorically denied the claim in the press release that the Middle East’s largest pay-TV service provider has been sold.

“The report is completely unverified, as OSN’s majority shareholder Kipco rejected the buyout offer,” said the spokesperson.

The offer by the United States’ Hellman & Friedman was rejected in August this year, says a report in the Wall Street Journal.

The press release from Baker & McKenzie Habib Al Mulla, distributed by the PR firm ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, on December 23 says: “The Media and Entertainment sector was the largest recipient of inbound M&A activity in terms of value with almost 36 percent share.

“This was driven by the $3.2 billion sale of Orbit Showtime Network, a Dubai-based owner and operator of a TV station, to an undisclosed US private equity firm. This is also the largest deal since 2010.”

The press release titled “Good year for cross-border M&A in the Middle East” was mainly about the growth of mergers and acquisitions in the region, and reports based on the press release were carried by news organizations such Khaleej Times, business news website Emirates24/7, news portal Zawya, Menafn.com, CPI Financial, among others, without checking the facts.

The spokesperson from OSN claimed that the majority shareholder Kipco in a statement to the Kuwait Stock Exchange in August 2014 said it has rejected the offer and the matter was closed.

Kuwait’s Kipco and Saudi Arabia’s Mawarid Group hold 60.5 percent and 39.5 percent stake, respectively, in OSN.

ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller has not issued a statement yet on the matter, and OSN said it will further clarify the matter to TRENDS soon.

Watch out for more updates on this story.

 (By Atique Naqvi, Dubai)

This piece was exclusive to TRENDS, a sister publication of AMEinfo.