A late afternoon announcement from Univision today (Feb. 8) confirmed that the Spanish language media company is on the block. Univision has retained UBS Investment Bank as a financial advisor to help

After months of speculation, Univision Communications has confirmed it will put itself up for sale. On Wednesday afternoon (Feb. 8), the largest Spanish language media company in the United States announced that its board of directors had decided to “explore strategic alternatives to enhance shareholder value.” These alternatives include, but are not limited to, the “combination, sale or merger” of the company.

Univision’s operations include the Univision Network, the most watched Spanish language broadcast network in the country; the Telefutura Network; Galavisión, the country’s leading Spanish language cable network; Univision Radio, the largest Spanish language radio network in the country, with 69 owned and/or operated stations; and the Univision Music Group, which includes Univision Records, Fonovisa Records and 50% of Disa Records and is the leading Latin music company in the United States.

Rumors of Univision’s sale have been going on for months, with Mexican media giant Televisa--the largest Spanish language media company in the world--often brought up as a possible buyer. Televisa owns 10% of Univision stock and supplies the bulk of the Univision Network’s programming from Mexico. Televisa and Univision are currently in the midst of a lawsuit over its programming licensing agreement, which runs through 2017.

It has been widely speculated that Televisa chairman/CEO Emilio Azcárraga would make a bid for Univision once he finalizes the process to become a U.S. citizen, which would allow him to own media in the United States.

Aside from Televisa, several other companies have been bandied about as possible Univision buyers, including News Corporation, Time Warner, CBS and Disney.

Last week, Disney sold 24 of its ABC Radio stations to Citadel Broadcasting, a move that could pave the way for ownership of the Univision radio network.

Merryl Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen's expectations, delivered in a Feb. 8 report, were that “private equity investors are the most likely bidders for the asset,” since FCC ownership limitations would hinder bids from News Corp., CBS and Viacom. Disney and Time Warner weren’t seen as likely bidders either, if only because of Disney’s move “to emphasize content” and the recent moves by “activist shareholders” such as Carl Ichan who want Time Warner to go through its own divestitures.

At the end of business on Feb. 8, Univision shares were up $3.66, to close at $34.20, but Wall Street analysts expect the stock to go higher. Reif Cohen placed the target price at $40 per share on the New York Stock Exchange.

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