Telefonica mulls moves

RTL Group may seek control over Endemol

CANNES — Spain has a new business game: pre-guessing what cards Telefonica Media will play to push toward profits.

On Friday the Financial Times suggested that the RTL Group is hankering after equity or control over Dutch TV giant Endemol, owned by Telefonica. That’s only one of the multiple options open to Telefonica as it tries to break into the black.

TM made provisions of $631 million to cover extraordinary losses in 2000. Of this deficit 45% stems from Argentinean asset Atco, which includes broadcaster Telefe.

TM losses increased 138% during the first quarter of 2001 due to stricter amortization rules in TM Argentinean assets.

This amount of red ink would not have worried parent company Telefonica in its heady new-media days under prexy Juan Villalonga.

But Telefonica’s share price has tumbled 21% during the last 12 months. And prexy Cesar Alierta, appointed last July, has his eyes more squarely on TM’s bottom line.

According to Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia, TM will sell its 5% stake in U.K. media group Pearson for some $686 million at a 25% profit.

Telefonica is Pearson’s largest single shareholder but has minimal influence over it.

Last week, El Pais suggested a merger between TM and Telefonica’s Internet operator, Terra Lycos; the week before, Expansion forecast a TM/Bertelsmann share swap.

RTL could also increase its share in TM broadcaster Antena 3, via Pearson.

None of these options will likely come to fruition quickly, however.

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