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California and the West

Univision Shares Purchased

April 20, 2006|Meg James | Times Staff Writer

Carlos Slim Domit, chairman of Mexico's Telefonos de Mexico telecommunications monopoly, has purchased $288 million in shares -- or 2.8% -- of Los Angeles-based Univision Communications Inc., according to a regulatory filing on Wednesday.

Slim's stock purchase comes as Univision, the nation's largest Spanish-language media company, is weighing a likely sale. Two months ago, Univision's board -- led by Los Angeles billionaire A. Jerrold Perenchio -- voted to explore the company's strategic options.

Buying Univision shares is significant because Slim serves on the board of Grupo Televisa, Mexico's dominant media company. He is the son of Carlos Slim Helu, whose fortune is estimated by Forbes magazine at $30 billion, making him the third-richest man in the world.

"The timing is very odd," said Philip Remek, a media analyst with Guzman & Co.

That's because Televisa is trying to structure a bid to increase its 11% stake in Univision. It provides the popular telenovelas that generate about 40% of Univision's revenue. But U.S. rules prevent foreigners from owning more than 25% of a broadcasting company.

Complicating matters, any Univision shares that Slim buys would likely count toward the 25% limit imposed on Televisa since he serves on the board.

Analysts weren't certain whether the younger Slim's purchase signals his desire to join a bid for Univision, or if he was looking for a way to turn a quick profit. In the filing, Televisa said Slim was not part of any group that Televisa might put together.

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