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Televisa sales soar

Surge delivers best Q4 profits since 1998

MEXICO CITY — Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa reported its highest fourth-quarter profits since 1998, thanks to a 14% sales increase attributed to increased consumer confidence.

Televisa earned 1.89 billion pesos ($170 million), a resounding 34% hike over its profits for the fourth quarter of 2003. For full-year 2004, Televisa’s profits rose 14% to $389 million.

The results are another financial shot in the arm for Mexico’s largest network, which has been turning up increasingly promising numbers as it expands into new markets and business ventures.

Indeed, these results — which outpaced analysts’ expectations — will add so much cash to Televisa’s coffers that the net said it would ask shareholders to increase dividend payouts by 10% in 2005.

The stellar results come less than a week after rival TV Azteca reported a disappointing 23% earnings decline for the same period. Those figures led Merrill Lynch to downgrade its Azteca rating from “neutral” to “sell.”

Sell is exactly what Televisa’s ad men were up to in the most recent quarter. Perhaps the most impressive results came from its Sky Mexico satellite TV unit, which hustled to take advantage of the news that competitor DirecTV would be quitting the Mexican market.

Televisa rushed to buy DirecTV’s subscriber list — leading to a 65,000-sub increase in Sky rolls and a 19% ad sales boost for the most recent quarter. That makes the platform Televisa’s second most important revenue stream after broadcast TV, which reported more modest but still comfortable 4.7% sales growth.

Overall topline for the fourth quarter reached $755 million.

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