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GE Capital buoys Canal 40

Deal sparks speculation of possible NBC foothold

MEXICO CITY — GE Capital has come to the rescue of Mexico’s troubled web Canal 40 by providing a 53 million peso ($5 million) loan to get it back on air and to pay workers, who have been on strike since May when their salaries dried up.

The deal has sparked speculation locally that GE-owned NBC wants to gain a foothold in Mexico for its Spanish-lingo channel Telemundo, although Mexican law forbids ownership of TV or radio assets by foreigners.

NBC was active in partnerships with Mexico’s nets in the late ’90s. A deal with TV Azteca ended in acrimony and the company launched a news venture with Televisa.

Javier Quijano, lawyer for Canal 40 operator CNI, said Canal 40 also was in talks with GE Capital for a credit line to pay other debts, including $35 million claimed by Mexico’s No. 2 net, TV Azteca.

“We are not selling anything,” Quijano said. “We are receiving a loan for working capital. We are not granting any pledge or rights whatsoever.”

Mexico’s Communications & Transport Ministry is seeking to ensure the loan is legal and the union has suspended any agreement with the channel until it gets the OK.

Telemundo referred calls to GE Mexico. GE Mexico reps were not available for comment.

Meanwhile, TV Azteca has filed a lawsuit to validate its bid for a 51% stake in Televisora del Valle de Mexico (TVM), which owns CNI.

It is the second time TV Azteca has gone to the Paris-based Intl. Court of Arbitration over the matter. In 2002, net received a partially favorable ruling, but was unable to enforce it in Mexican courts.

The 51% stake was put up as the guarantee to a 1998 shared production and advertising deal between the nets that soured, leading to a string of legal actions by TV Azteca. It recently filed bankruptcy proceedings against CNI and its owner, Javier Moreno Valle, who is on the lam from charges of tax evasion.

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