Digital+ sale near?

Despite all the false starts, Sogecable's pay-TV operator Digital+ could soon be sold. The sale of the operator to Spain's main telco Telefónica and French media group Vivendi could be carried out if €200 million of difference between what the seller wants and what the buyers are willing to pay, is resolved.

Telefónica and Vivendi are offering €2,350 million while Sogecable is asking for €2,500 million according to some sources close to negotiations. The problem for Prisa's Sogecable is that it has a debt of €2,000 million and a sale price below €2,600 million for Digital+ could damage the company.

Juan Luis Cebrián, recently named first executive of the company, has turned down both the Vivendi offer (65% of the joint-venture) and that of Telefónica's (the remaining 35% of the joint-venture with Vivendi).

Other sources close to the negotiations say talks are at a stand by point. However, a solution is likely in the next few weeks before March 31 when Prisa has to account for a €1,900 loan given by the banks HSBC, La Caixa, Banesto, Caja Madrid, BNP and Natixis.

Prisa is also negotiating in paralell the refinancing of its whole debt. Now Prisa must find an investor who puts money in the company and at the same time who allows it to recapitalize. This is going to be difficult because the editorial company has knocked at a lot of doors and so far no-one has paid too much attention.

Meanwhile, Javier Díez de Polanco will be Prisa's new Audiovisual director. This division will be divided into five different areas: Pay TV, including Digital+'s activities; Free-To-Air TV with the national channel Cuatro and the digital channels CNN+ and 40Latino and the Audiovisual Production for Spain, Portugal and the US under the brand Plural NBP.

Operations General Management will include management, financing, management control, buyouts, information technologies, human resources and general services of the company.

Regarding the Portuguese free-to-air business of Prisa this will continue to be operational through the free-to-air channel TVI. Moreover the company contemplates the launching of a 24 hour news channel in this country.

In the frame of this strategic operation Daniel Gavela will continue to be Cuatro's general director and Juan Casal Sogecable Media's general director for the commercialization of the different advertising supports of Spain's biggest media group.