Grupo Televisa and Partners Favored to Win Univision Auction

Bids Due June 20 for Hispanic Broadcaster

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- With bids to buy Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications due June 20, the front-runner -- a group led by Mexico's Grupo Televisa -- was strengthened by the addition of Venezuelan media company Venevision, a Univision shareholder and program supplier, late last week.
The group formed by Grupo Televisa, the world's biggest Spanish-language media group, is widely believed to have the best chance of buying Univision.
The group formed by Grupo Televisa, the world's biggest Spanish-language media group, is widely believed to have the best chance of buying Univision.

World's biggest
The group formed by Grupo Televisa, the world's biggest Spanish-language media group, is widely believed to have the best chance of buying Univision if the partners meet Univision's ambitious price expectations. The other major bidder is expected to be a group of five private-equity investors and firms.

"We believe that this strengthens team Televisa's negotiating position for Univision and likely weakens the position of other bidders further," William Blair & Co. analysts said in a statement last week.

No U.S. media groups expected to bid
When A. Jerrold Perenchio, who controls Univision's voting shares, put the company up for sale in February, U.S. media groups initially looked at Univision but none are expected to make a bid. Televisa has the potential to make life difficult for other bidders. The Mexican media company has an 11.4% stake in Univision, supplies some of its highest-rated programming in a deal that runs until 2017, and is also involved in litigation with Univision over minor but longstanding grievances.

Univision is also expensive. The company is believed to be looking for $40 a share, valuing Univision at more than $12 billion. (Univision's share price closed at $35.75 June 16, up 1.3%). The last big Hispanic media deal was NBC Universal's acquisition of No. 2 Spanish-language network Telemundo for $2.7 billion in 2001.

The Televisa group includes Venevision, which has a 14% stake in Univision, and private equity firms Bain Capital Partners, Blackstone Management Associates, Carlyle Investment Management, Kohlberg Kravits Roberts & Co., and Bill Gates' private investment firm, Cascade Investment.

Other bidder
The other investor group preparing a bid for Univision consists of Texas Pacific Group, Providence Equity Partners, Madison Dearborn Partners, Thomas H. Lee Partners and media investor Haim Saban.

'No guarantees'
"It's an auction," said Julio Rumbaut, president of Rumbaut & Co., a Hispanic media consulting firm. "There are no guarantees. However, Televisa has the financial backing, the infrastructure to maximize future Univision operations, and apparently the desire to prevail."

Univision declined to comment.

Hispanic media growth continues to outpace the general market. TNS Media Intelligence last week downgraded its forecast for U.S. ad-spending growth in 2006 to 4.9%, from 5.4% in an earlier forecast in January. But TNS predicts Spanish-language media will grow by 12.9% this year. Univision controls about 70% of all Spanish-language TV advertising, and is also the largest radio broadcaster and has the largest online operation with Univision.com.

The company's top executives are ready for a sale. Last month, Univision's board of directors approved generous severance terms for four of the company's top executives if they lose their jobs following a change in control of the company. The four -- President-Chief Operating Officer Ray Rodriguez, Vice Chairman Robert Cahill, Chief Financial Officer Andrew Hobson and Exec VP Douglas Kranwinkle -- would be entitled to three times their annual salaries and maximum bonuses, and vesting of their share options.
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