Sogecable slumps on soccer rumor

Feevee crashes at stock exchange

MADRID — The stock of Sogecable, Spain’s main pay TV operator, crashed 8.6% Thursday on Madrid’s stock exchange following press reports that new free-to-air channel La Sexta will enter into the battle for Spanish League soccer rights.

Sogecable’s shares dropped from E29.84 ($38.36) to $35.05. The shares of publishing group Prisa, which has a controlling 43.43% stake in Sogecable, tumbled 7.1%.

By market capitalization, Sogecable and Prisa are Spain’s largest media companies.

Owner of satcaster Digital Plus and free-to-air channel Cuatro, Sogecable controls Spain’s soccer rights via Audiovisual Sport, in which it holds a 80% stake. Soccer rights are Sogecable’s key content.

Financial newspaper Expansion said Mediapro, a core shareholder in La Sexta, has closed a deal with the Barcelona soccer club offering some $154 million a year for rights to Spanish league matches. Offer is almost double the $83.5 million Sogecable reportedly is paying every year until the 2008-09 season.

Although the report was not confirmed, the Spanish market certainly believes Mediapro is in talks with Barcelona as well Real Madrid and other top Spanish teams.

“The possible entry of a new operator into the battle for soccer rights would mean a brutal inflation in their costs, and it puts Sogecable’s business model at a very large risk,” Deutsche Bank analyst Luis Fananas told Daily Variety.

However, he added, “My impression is that in the end, Sogecable and Mediapro would reach an agreement to share Spain’s soccer league matches rights.”

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