Antena 3 high on IPO

Markets tune in to b'caster

MADRID — Antena 3 floated on the stock exchange Wednesday, becoming Spain’s second commercial broadcaster, following Sogecable, to do so.

It delivered a turn-up for the books: Shares rose 8% over the first day of trading against an issue price of E25.20 ($29).

In an unusual move, Spanish telco giant Telefonica distributed a 30% stake in A3 among its shareholders on Oct. 21. According to Spain’s CNMV stock market authorities, those shares could be sold on the open market from Wednesday.

Many analysts had forecast that the stock would rapidly tumble. Antena 3 is embroiled in a potentially costly battle with staff about anticipated layoffs. It’s also announced estimated full-year losses of $103.9 million for 2003.

The rise, analysts now say, is due to a shareholders’ pact between A3’s new controlling owners. Planeta and DeAgostini, which jointly hold 27% in A3, and the RTL Group, with 17%, have agreed to raise their stakes in A3, setting ceilings of 49.9% for Planeta/DeAgostini and 35% for RTL.

With the three shareholders in a buying vein, Telefonica’s institutional investors held onto their stakes; smaller investors sold on for a small profit.

The share hike can also be seen as a vote of confidence in A3’s new management, led by its CEO, vet exec Maurizio Carlotti.

Spain’s TV ad slump appears to have bottomed out. A3 has set strict writedowns for 2003 of $205.5 million. Its management suggests — and the market believes — that it can return to the black in 2004.

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