Liberty divests itself of Argentine cabler

Buyer is U.S. investment fund Fintech Media

BUENOS AIRES — John Malone’s Liberty Media has sold its 50% of Argentina’s leading cabler Cablevision to U.S. investment fund Fintech Media.

Fintech is now a 50/50 partner in the Buenos Aires-based cable/broadband ISP concern with Texan buyout fund Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst.

Fintech Media, already a creditor of Cablevision, paid an undisclosed sum for VLG Argentina, a holding company for Liberty’s stake in the cable operator on Thursday.

Fintech Media is a subsidiary of Fintech Advisory, a Delaware-based firm with offices in London and New York, that specializes in buying and selling distressed emerging market debt. David Martinez, a Mexican financier who in 2003 bought the 76th floor of New York’s Time Warner Center for $42.25 million, is the managing partner.

The purchase comes as Cablevision emerges from a restructuring of the $796 million debt it defaulted on after Argentina’s 2001-02 economic collapse and 65% currency slump.

It amassed the debt in the 1990s to build Argentina’s — and Latin America’s — largest cable network

Now, a recovering economy — it is expected to expand 5.8% this year after growth of 8.3% in 2004 — is helping Cablevision regain the 18% of its subscribers lost during the economic crisis. It has 1.3 million cable subs (and 139,200 for ISP), less than a peak of 1.5 million in 1998-99.

Cablevision’s management team, headed by Mariano Ibanez, has not changed as a result of the ownership shuffle. Fintech appointees replace the exiting Liberty execs on the board of directors.

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