Move follows Sogecable rumors

MADRID — Madrid’s CNMV stock market regulator suspended trading Thursday morning on Prisa and Sogecable, Spain’s two biggest media companies, after remarks by Prisa CEO Juan Luis Cebrian intimating that Prisa could divest Spanish pay-TV giant Sogecable.

Cebrian told Bloomberg.com that Sogecable would be an attractive investment for phone companies. “We will do something. Time will tell when and how,” he said.

The statement looks like speculation on Cebrian’s part. In the short term at least, there’s no evidence that Prisa will unload its 43% controlling shareholding in Sogecable.

But Cebrian’s words were enough to spark a 5.84% share spike in Sogecable stock during aggressive early morning trading.

Seeking clarification on a Sogecable sale, the CMNV suspended Prisa and Sogecable stock 10.20 a.m.

They resumed trading 12.30 a.m. after Prisa informed the Madrid regulator that “it had not made any decision to divest” Sogecable.

That’s for the short term. Cebrian was also laying down markers to a potential but longer-term future.

“Over time, the divestment in pay-TV may happen. But it won’t happen tomorrow,” said Fabian Lares, an analyst at Espirito Santo Investment.

“The first thing before divestment will be joint-commercialization agreements between Sogecable and a number of platforms, including Telefonica,” he added.

Telco Telefonica holds a 16.65% stake in Sogecable.

In late March, Sogecable CEO Javier Diez de Polanco confirmed that Sogecable is in conversation with several telco and cable operators to sub-license them one jewel in Sogecable’s contents crown: premium sports/movie channel multiplex Canal Plus.

“Over time, the content business may prove proportionately greater than subscribers. When that happens, Sogecable will contemplate moving on to just content aggregating. People will want VOD and bi-directional services and, unlike cable and IPTV, Sogecable can’t provide that,” Lares said.

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