Canal 40 put up for sale

Businessman Saba eyes stake in news channel

MEXICO CITY — Beleaguered news channel CNI Canal 40 said it’s in negotiations to sell a majority stake in the company.

Mexican businessman Isaac Saba is the probable buyer. Rumored price for the 51% stake in the net, owned by Javier Moreno Valle, is between $50 million and $75 million, including liquidation of Canal 40’s numerous debts.

Principal barrier to a sale is Canal 40’s 4-year-old feud with TV Azteca, Mexico’s second-largest broadcaster. The dispute dates to 1999, when Canal 40 terminated a contract it signed with Azteca the previous year, giving Azteca a buyout option as well as half of Canal 40’s pre-tax earnings. In exchange, Azteca would provide 51% of Canal 40’s programming and would sell airtime.

Canal 40 claimed Azteca was not holding up its end of the contract.

Matters worsened last December, when masked agents for Azteca forcibly seized control of Canal 40’s transmission tower and fed Azteca programming over normal programming, renaming the station “Azteca 40.”

The Mexican government subsequently shut down the channel for a month, before reinstating Canal 40 at the close of January. Since then, the net has returned to regular programming and has even begun producing telenovelas that would appear to compete with Azteca fare.

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