Pay TV Boosts Mexican Media Giant Televisa’s Fourth Quarter, 2014 Growth

But must-offer regulation makes negative impact

Mexico’s Televisa, the world’s largest provider of Spanish-language content, maintained on Monday the 1.2% stock surge it saw late last week as it announced better-than-expected fourth-quarter results on Thursday.

But the major narrative for 2014 remains the same, a scenario drawn last February when Mexico’s Supreme Court backed a so-called must-offer ruling by its Federal Telecommunications Institute (IFT) obliging free-to-air broadcasters to provide their retransmission free of charge to pay TV providers: Pay TV/telco continues to drive Televisa’s profit growth, but the must-offer reg is denting its bottom line.

Reporting Q4 results on Thursday, Televisa saw a slight uptick of 1.6% in its fourth-quarter profit, which rose to 2.5 billion pesos ($166.9 million), mainly driven by robust subscriber gains in pay TV and increased sales of content and advertising.

Pay TV (cable/telco and Sky) revenues grew sturdily 22.1% year-on-year, content 6.7%. Goldman Sachs, in a research note, noted an upside on “better-than-expected content revenue” but warned of “competition in pay TV segment negatively impacting growth rates.”

Per Televisa, revenue growth across all biz segments attributed to 2014 net sales spiked 8.6% to 80.1 billion pesos ($5.34 billion) compared to 73.8 billion pesos in 2013.

On the downside, Televisa saw a 12.5% dip in full-year network-subscription revs due to the must-offer regulation that obliges free-to-air broadcasters to provide their retransmission free of charge to pay TV providers. Negative impact was offset, however, by the company’s increased growth in pay TV subs in Mexico and abroad.

A 4.8% jump in fourth-quarter royalties from U.S. Hispanic giant Univision, in which Televisa has a 38% stake (after converting debt into equity), providing a good portion of Univision’s programming, also boosted Televisa’s bottom line. Televisa earned $77.5 million in Q4 2014 in royalties from Univision compared to $74 million in the same period the year prior.

In a conference call with investors, Televisa observed Univision was likely to list its shares within the next 12-18 months, echoing what Univision CFO Andrew Hobson said in the company’s Q4 earnings call. However, Hobson, who has since resigned, pointed out that the final decision would have to be made by its current owners, led by the Saban Capital Group, which acquired Univision for $12 billion in 2007.

Goldman Sachs retains its neutral rating and 12-month price target of $33 per share global depositary receipt (GDR) for Televisa.

John Hopewell contributed to this report.

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