Politics are likely to weigh heavy in takeover battle

MADRID — Three Spanish media groups are bidding for a controlling share in telco Telefonica’s broadcaster Antena 3.

Regional publisher and media conglom Correo Group and Pearson’s Spanish publishing house the Recoletos Group threw their hats into the ring on Monday, joining Barcelona’s Planeta Group, which has already had lengthy takeover talks.

As often happens in Spain, politics are likely to weigh heavier than commerce in deciding the winner.

The takeover battle is sparked by Spain’s digital TV merger, which has left Telefonica contravening TV ownership regs as a shareholder in two private TV license holders: Sogecable’s premium paybox Canal Plus Espana and Antena 3.

Telefonica, which controls 59% of Antena 3, surprised analysts last month by revealing it was giving away half of that stake to its shareholders as a top-up dividend against 2002 results.

Its remaining stake will be floated or sold off, Telefonica sources declared. The latter now looks more likely.

The telco values Antena 3 at E1.4 billion ($1.5 billion). Planeta, per reports, tags the commercial web at 10 times its 2002 earnings before interest, tax deductions and amortization, of $47.9 million.

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