Board bars Slim Domit

Televisa blocks mogul from bid chats

Mexico’s top net Televisa will bar billionaire board member Carlos Slim Domit from board discussions on its bid to increase its stake in Spanish-lingo broadcaster Univision, which is on the block.

Televisa exec VP Alfonso de Angoitia said during a conference call Friday that Slim Domit, son of Mexican telco tycoon Carlos Slim, had not participated in Thursday’s meeting where members approved a plan to join equity partners to bid for Univision, due to a conflict of interest.

Slim Domit has picked up 3.8% of Univision in a buying spree that began in mid March forcing Televisa to twice notify the U.S. Securities Exchange Commission.

Timing raised eyebrows over whether Slim Domit had been privy to information via the Televisa board that influenced his buy.

Insider trading by board members of any U.S. company would force a speedy resignation.

Since Univision announced it was putting itself up for sale in February, speculation has raged that Televisa, Univision’s main programming supplier, would bid for the U.S. net. Televisa topper Emilio Azcarraga Jean has long plotted how he could take full control of the Univision, launched by his grandfather.

FCC rules limit foreign ownership of U.S. stations to 25% and Televisa has not revealed how large a stake it is chasing.

De Angoitia and exec VP Bernardo Gomez also outlined Televisa’s stellar financials from the first quarter and discussed new business ventures including free-TV venture La Sexta in Spain, pay TV expansion in Central America and the net’s new gaming division.

First quarter earnings more the doubled to nearly $119 million compared to a year ago on revenue of $685 million, up 13% from $570 million in the first three months of 2005.

De Angoitia said Televisa would expand satcaster Sky, operated by Innova subsidiary, into Central America during 2007.

During the first quarter Televisa exercised options to increase its stake in Innova from nearly 53% to almost 59% by buying up two-thirds of Liberty Media’s stake. Direct TV owns the rest of Innova.

Sky, with more than 1.3 million subs, has become the second biggest revenue stream for Televisa, earning $157 million during the first quarter, up more than 27% year-on-year.

Televisa also said it would invest $45 million this year to open 10 bingo and off-track betting parlors across Mexico. First bingo hall opened this month in the city of Puebla.

Last year Televisa won licenses to operate 65 gaming facilities and business is expected to become a major revenue stream over the next two years.