Televisa stays coy on Chilevision

Co. denies bid rumors but keeps options open

In a mixed message, Mexico’s Televisa, the world’s largest provider of Spanish-language content, is denying local media reports that it is planning to buy Chile’s No. 3 terrestrial web Chilevision — while indicating that it isn’t closing the door completely on a bid.

The denial comes after sources close to the deal say Televisa was one of four bidders, three of which were said to be foreign companies with Latin American and European interests, for the sale planned in two weeks.

The web is owned by Chile’s President Sebastian Pinera, a billionaire and media mogul who is working to divest his investments in companies that could cause potential conflicts of interest.

Pinera’s efforts to cut ties with Chilevision are seen as a stark contrast to Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose control of the Mediaset broadcast group is widely condemned by critics despite the leader’s insistence that he has passed the reigns to his son Pier Silvio.

Televisa’s chief competitor would be Bethia, a holding company and investment arm of Chilean mogul Liliana Solari Falabella’s empire.

The new auction comes after a previous deal worth $130 million — $140 million to sell Chilevision to local investment fund Linzor Capital fell through last month.

Pinera had pledged early in his election campaign to sell his $1.5 billion stake in flagship airline LAN, something he quickly did after coming into office on March 11. Bethia bought Pinera’s share in the airline, a fact some believe will help in the TV negotiation.

Pinera purchased Chilevision in 2005 for around $24 million, guiding it to a net profit of $15 million last year.

Televisa’s last incursion into Chilean TV came via its partial ownership in the 1990s of Megavision (now Mega), the nation’s largest broadcaster.

The sale is being managed by investment bank LarrainVial.

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