Latin American splash

Spanish conglom stakes out Argentine prod'n unit

BUENOS AIRES — Telefonica Media has made its first splash into Latin American cinema just days after its parent, Spain’s Telefonica, announced the acquisition of two Argentine broadcasters for the new division.

Telefonica Media has taken 30% of Patagonik Film Group, a leading Argentine production company. The other shareholders are Disney subsid Buena Vista Intl., with 30%, Artear, the Argentine Clarin Group’s programming arm, also with 30%, and Pablo Bossi, one of Patagonik’s founders, with 10%. Financial terms of the deal were not released.

Sprouting arms

Telefonica Media’s stake in Patagonik adds an important string to its regional bow. Its only other significant Latin American properties are two Argentine broadcasters, Telefe, the market leader, and Azul. It will take full control of that pair by the third quarter in a deal with its fellow shareholder, U.S. investment fund Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, announced this week.

Patagonik, created in 1994, scored local hits with “Dibu” and “Dibu 2: La Venganza de Nasty,” a pair of semi-animated children’s pics, as well as award-winning drama “Cenizas del Paraiso” and commercial potboiler “Cohen vs. Rosi.”

The deal heralds a close relationship with the Clarin group, publisher of the largest Spanish-speaking daily, and owner of various media interests.

Joint ventures eyed

Telefonica Media prexy Jose Antonio Rios had recently told Daily Variety that he was talking to Clarin about possible joint ventures. The Argentine company has long been searching for a minority shareholder for Multicanal, one of the big two local cable multisystem operators.

Press reports have also suggested that Telefonica Media is negotiating the purchase of about 20% of Galaxy’s Argentine direct-to-home satellite arm, in which Clarin holds a 51% stake, although Galaxy and Clarin deny it.

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