Televisa to divest from Univision

Sources say company looking to ease longstanding debt

MIAMI — In a bid to raise some $500 million, Televisa intends to divest 70% of its holding in Univision, the two companies announced late Tuesday.

The Mexican conglom currently holds 22.6 million Univision shares, 19.7% of company stock, and intends to sell 15.8 million shares via a secondary offering.

No details were supplied, but insiders say Televicentro, a grouping of Televisa’s voting shareholders, needs cash to ease longstanding debt that chief exec Emilio Azcarraga Jean inherited from his late father last year.

In February, Mexican bankers told the Financial Times that Televicentro owes $1.1 billion, of which $500 million are short-term bridge loans extended last fall by Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs.

Pablo Riveroll of Merrill Lynch said that together with coin raised from its sale of remaining PanAmSat stock earlier this month, Televisa would have nearly $1 billion with which to reduce corporate debt and conduct a share repurchase program.

The Univision sale “will increase Televisa’s equity, which in December was at $1.921 billion, by 44%,” Riveroll said.

Analysts expect that, given a higher share price, Televisa may shortly announce a secondary offering in order to help ease the debt burden on Televicentro.

Analysts said the divestment would not affect Televisa’s programming-for-revenue deal with Univision, which is good through 2017. This setup grants Televisa a fixed percentage of Univision ad sales in exchange for unlimited programming.

Though the announcement was made after markets closed, news of the move leaked out in Mexico on Monday and appears to have led to Tuesday’s 5.4% drop in the Univision stock price, to $33.75.

Televisa ADRs were also down on Wall Street, by 1.38 (3.4%), to $39.3.