TV Azteca losses continue in fourth quarter

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MEXICO CITY--Financial woes continued at Mexican broadcaster TV Azteca during the fourth quarter, when it lost $39 million and reaped net sales of only $119 million, a 13% drop compared with the same period a year ago.

In 1999, the broadcaster bled $15 million, compared with a $9 million net profit registered in the previous year. Net sales fell 19% from $433 million.

In a company press release, TV Azteca President and Director General Ricardo Salinas Pliego said "1999 was unfavorable due in large part to low television advertising prices in Mexico."

The broadcaster had complained repeatedly that advertising rates in Mexico were depressed compared to other regional markets, and late last year followed rival Televisa's lead and hiked 2000 rates by 36% in nominal terms. Network executives believe the move will spark a recovery in the network's bottom line.

"We're resolving 1999 revenue problems with substantial price increases," says Luis Echarte, TV Azteca finance director. "In addition, we will continue watching market conditions in order to assure that any increase indemand for TV Azteca advertising [time] during the year will be reflected in our rates."

According to an IBOPE survey, TV Azteca earned 15.1 rating points during the fourth quarter, a 14% increase over the same period a year ago. The network's commercial audience share rose to 35%, a 13% increase over the last quarter of 1998.

Copyright February 2000, Crain Communications Inc.

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