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Prisa gets loan relief, stock boost

Company stock was up 26%

Prisa, Spain’s biggest media group, has seen a dramatic two-day share rally on the back of speculation that it was close to gaining a stay of execution on its EUR1.95 billion ($2.5 billion) bridging loan.

Company stock spiked 35.5% Tuesday before settling in for a 26% full-day gain to close at $1.50, rising another 4.2% Wednesday morning to $1.60, a total two-day rise of 32%.

Prisa raised the loan last year to take full ownership of its TV arm, Sogecable, which owns satcaster Digital Plus and broadcast network Cuatro.

Provided by London bank HSBC, the loan has since been syndicated to Spanish banks La Caixa, Caja Madrid and Banesto, and France’s Natixis and BNP Paribas. It lapses March 31.

Madrid’s CNMV stock market regulator released a Prisa statement mid-morning that reiterated comments Prisa CEO Juan Luis Cebrian made at a Dec. 5 shareholders’ meeting when he said that Prisa had “the support of principal bank financiers and potential investors.”

Two problems still cloud Prisa’s horizon: selling Digital Plus to reduce its $6 billion debt, and soccer rights ownership.

In December, Prisa rejected a reported $2 billion conditional offer for Digital Plus made jointly by France’s Vivendi and Spain’s Telefonica.

Last week, a Madrid court pushed back a crucial ruling on Spanish soccer league rights until Nov. 17

Rival Mediapro holds rights to 17 out of 20 First Division soccer clubs, including Real Madrid and Barcelona, for the 2009-10 season.

Sogecable is suing Mediapro, alleging it acquired the rights illegally. Digital Plus needs soccer league broadcasts to maintain its 2.1 million subscriber base — without the soccer it will be much harder to sell.

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