The accent’s on restraint, so far

Most bets are on Televisa to nab Univision

The first salvo in the auction for Hispanic broadcaster Univision dissolved last week into as many twists as a telenovela.

Both initial bidders, a consortium led by Televisa and a rival headed by Haim Saban, missed the official deadline for lodging an offer, though Saban did place a bid several hours thereafter.

The likelier contender Televisa had to scramble when three of its five equity partners backed out.

That in itself was odd, given that the consortium had been planning their move for months — and, given stock market conditions and Univision’s own prospects, the price target seemed to have slipped rather than risen over the last few weeks. Apparently they couldn’t agree on what the company, which owns TV and radio stations that target the Hispanic population, is really worth.

Univision’s wily owner Jerrold Perenchio had hoped for $14 billion for the numero uno Hispanic net, but last week’s low-balling valued the company at closer to $11 billion.

Despite regulatory issues, most bets are on Televisa, which already has an 11% stake and a longterm programming deal with Univision, to prevail. But, it’s still early days and the games may have just begun.

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