Prisa bidding for all of Sogecable

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MADRID -- Spanish media giant Prisa launched a bid Thursday for the remainder of pay TV powerhouse Sogecable that it does not already own, valuing the operator at 3.8 billon euros ($5.5 billion).

"Prisa's intention is for Sogecable to be at the core of its audiovisual activities," Prisa said in a statement.

The move comes on the heels of rumors last week -- denied by Prisa -- that foretold of Sogecable's being acquired via a public bid by Prisa and sees the group up its present 50.03% stake. Other major shareholders are Telefonica (17%) and France's Vivendi (4.8%).

Prisa will pay 27.98 euros ($40.12) per share, 5.6% of Sogecable's closing market price Wednesday, but significantly less than the 37 euros ($53.10) per share it paid for a 20% stake in November 2005.

According to industry insiders and market analysts, Prisa plans to sell off the pay TV satellite platform Digital Plus and keep its year-old, free-to-air TV channel Cuatro, which has performed well over the past year -- with 7.8% of the audience share.

Over the past few months, Sogecable has frozen its film production department, Sogecine, as word on the street spread that the company's strategy to was focus attention on Cuatro.

Sogecable's war with rival TV firm Mediapro for coveted broadcast rights to Spain's professional soccer league matches has weakened Digital Plus and lowered Sogecable's share price over the past year.

Digital Plus is Spain's only digital platform via satellite and holds the lion's share of the digital market, but the loss of the soccer rights and the uncertainty of whether it can air the lucrative matches on pay-per-view bruised the operator.
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