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Pair reup pay TV pact

Agreement commits Prisa, CPG to maintain equal 21% stakes

MADRID — Spain’s Prisa and France’s Canal Plus Group have extended their equal shareholders pact in Spain’s leading pay TV operator Sogecable through 2003, bringing stability to the sector.

Originally struck in June 1999, the agreement commits Prisa and CPG to maintain equal 21% stakes. If one partner pulls out, the other has a first option to buy its holding.

The feeling in Spain is that CPG would have to be desperate to quit Sogecable now, especially as the future of the paybox’s only digital TV rival — Telefonica-owned Via Digital — looks shaky.

Sogecable’s merger with Via still has to be approved by the European Union and Spanish antitrust authorities. If it doesn’t go through, Telefonica is unlikely to put up with the satcaster’s huge year-after-year losses — €333 million ($317.4 million) for 2001 — and may close it down.

Remarkably for a Euro pay operation, Sogecable turned a net profit in 2001. Hit — but not devastated — by the fall in media values in Spain, Sogecable’s share price stands at $16.

Its value is likely to rise exponentially if Sogecable emerges as Spain’s only major pay TV operator. If CPG can afford the patience, it is likely to stay put in Spain.

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