Operating income rose 7% to $306 million

MEXICO CITY — Led by robust growth in satellite, cable and telephony Televisa, one of the world’s top producers of Spanish-language TV content, reported a hearty 21% leap in net sales Thursday to $958 million from $791 million last year.

Year-to-year operating income rose 7% to $306 million. The conglom did report a 9.6% drop in majority interest net income to $159 million from last year, pulled down by higher financing costs and greater expenses. With the peso’s value volatile of late, all figures reflect a running average exchange rate of 13 pesos to the dollar.

The conglom’s cable and telco segment posted a 229.5% rise over 2007 to $152 million due in large part to a 23.1% rise in sales for cabler Cablevision as well as the consolidation of the web’s newest cabler acquisitions Cablemas and telco Bestel.

With Cablevision and Cablemas, Televisa can now boast 1.94 million cable subscribers.

As the web’s bread-and-butter earner, the broadcasting unit saw a 6.1% increase in net sales to $429 million, driven by its coverage of the Beijing Olympic Games. The unit’s operating income only saw a 4% rise to $216 million due to a higher cost of sales and operating expenses related to the Olympics.

The conglom continues to dominate national ratings with a 71.9% share for evening primetime.

The web’s satcaster Sky showed a 12.2% jump in sales to $177 million as its subscriber base grows in Mexico, Central America and the Dominican Republic. It serves 1.73 million subscribers — 12% up on 2007.

Feevee network sales rose 14.3% in the third quarter to $41.1 million, reflecting higher revenues resulting from additional subscribers in Mexico, Latin America and Spain, as well as higher ad sales.

Programming export sales dropped 5.1% to $42.5 million due in large part to the negative effect of foreign currency sales. This was partially offset by royalties paid by U.S. broadcaster Univision, which amounted to $37.3 million this quarter.

Televisa is in a long-standing dispute over royalties with Univision. A trial date is set for Jan. 6 to determine if Televisa can pull out of its 25-year programming license deal.

The Mexican conglom saw an 11.1% rise in its publishing biz to $69.4 million driven mainly by its acquisition of publisher Editorial Atlantida.

The net’s other businesses saw higher sales in its gaming, radio and publishing distribution outfits with lower sales in soccer, Internet and feature-film distribution.

With regards to expenses, Televisa saw its integral cost of financing soar to $45.1 million from $2.02 million in the third quarter of 2007. This resulted from interest payments on a sizable increase in long-term debt, lower interest income on foreign currency investments and a $20.7 million hit in foreign-exchange losses following a 6.03% depreciation of the peso against the U.S. dollar this quarter.

The company reported a debt of $2.48 billion, including $146 million in dollar-dominated debt. It noted that the average duration of its debt is 13.5 years, it has no significant maturities until 2012 and almost all of the debt has fixed interest rates.

The report offered an outlook of 4.5% nominal growth in sales and operating income for the full year.

The web also took the opportunity to announce that Jose Baston became prexy of TV and content Monday.

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