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BUENOS AIRES — Canal 9 owner Daniel Hadad is looking for a cash-rich partner to bolster the flagging fortunes of Argentina’s third-ranked TV broadcaster.

In June, Canal 9 filed for protection from its creditors, gaining time to refinance an estimated $21 million in debt — mostly owed to studios — and turn around the money-losing business.

Journo-lawyer Hadad and former partners acquired Argentina’s No. 3 broadcaster from Telefonica’s Admira and the U.S. bank JPMorgan Chase last year. In April, Hadad bought out local magazine publisher Editorial Atlantida, paying an estimated $9.5 million for its 50% stake.

Since taking control of the broadcaster, Hadad has cut costs, mainly by replacing expensive fiction programming with cheaper formats like newsmagazines and talkers.

Like other broadcasters, Canal 9 took a hammering last year when an 11% slump in the economy caused industrywide ad spending to drop by half.

Execs at the Buenos Aires-based broadcaster claim to be in talks with Mexico’s dominant broadcaster, Televisa, which Televisa denies.

New auds

Televisa’s core broadcast TV business is flat, so it has been looking abroad for growth opportunities. However, its focus has been on the U.S. Hispanic market, of which Mexicans and Mexican-Americans comprise the largest subsector. Argentina has not historically been a big consumer of Mexican programming.

Canal 9 says another possible buyer is Raul Moneta, a local banker with a history of investment in the media sector — and who has a checkered past.

He was on the run for more than six months in 1999 for alleged conspiracy and tax fraud, charges he has denied.

Before that, Moneta was a big player in the country’s cable sector as chairman and CEO of CEI Citicorp Holdings, a former shareholder in Argentina’s biggest cabler Cablevision, which is now controlled by Liberty Media and U.S. investment fund Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst.

Mary Sutter in Miami contributed to this report.