A group of investors including Mexican broadcaster Televisa is planning to launch a bid for Spanish-language U.S. media company Univision Communications Inc., which is eyeing a sale, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday (March 9).
The group includes U.S. private equity firm Providence Equity, Televisa, U.S. billionaire Haim Saban and the Cisneros family of Venezuela.
Other sources familiar with the matter have said other private equity groups including the Blackstone Group, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. (KKR), and Quadrangle Group LLC were also considering bidding for Univision, the No. 1 Spanish-language broadcaster in the U.S.
Televisa is Univision’s main supplier of programing and has expressed an interest in increasing its stake from 11 percent. The Cisneros family, which controls Venezuela’s Venevision, holds about 13 percent of Univision.
Televisa and a spokeswoman for the Cisneros Group of Companies declined comment.
U.S. law restricts foreign ownership of television stations to 25%, unless the FCC determines it is otherwise in the public interest.
“It’s not a particularly big surprise that Televisa is involved in a consortium to buy the company with a private equity firm, which would be crucial to getting around foreign ownership restrictions,” said David Bank, analyst at RBC Capital Markets.
Univision last month said it was considering a sale of the company in an auction, which was expected to draw interest from media conglomerates angling for an entry into the fast-growing Spanish-language sector of U.S. media markets.
Los Angeles-based Univision, which has a market value of about $10 billion, said a sale was among a number of “strategic alternatives” it planned to pursue.
Since the announcement, Univision shares have risen as much as 17 percent to a year-high of $35.65. On Thursday Univision shares closed up 0.64 percent at $32.92.
Televisa has close to $1 billion in cash and analysts have said it would have little problem in raising more money to bid for a higher stake in Univision or lining up potential new partners.
The CEOs of media titans News Corp. and Time Warner Inc. have said they would look at acquiring Univision.
Foreign ownership rules are not foreign to Televisa Chairman Emilio Azcarraga Jean, who previously has toyed with the idea of applying for U.S. citizenship, just as Australian-born media baron Rupert Murdoch did to bypass U.S. limits on media ownership by foreigners.
Televisa has gone down a similar path before. In 2005, it teamed with local producers to launch TV channels in Spain, holding only 40 percent of the venture but with the management in its grip.
Televisa has a programing deal with Univision extending through 2017 and has buoyed the U.S. media company’s growth among Hispanic viewers in the last few years.
Televisa had inked its 17-year programing deal with Univision in 2000 in a drive to improve its presence in the Hispanic market and tap more advertising dollars.
But the venture soured when Televisa sued Univision last year in a dispute over royalties.
Industry watchers say Televisa is seeking a way out of the deal — it claimed breach of contract in a recent U.S. filing — and think that a possible sale of Univision could be good news for the Mexican giant.