Analysts downplay plan to sell TF1 stake

France's Bouygues said to be weighing sale

LONDON -- Analysts are downplaying reports that French construction and utilities group Bouygues is preparing to sell down its 43% stake in leading commercial network TF1.

The struggling privately held broadcaster saw its audience share slide to 26.2% in November, from 29.3% a year ago, but analysts said Tuesday that a sale remains unlikely in current market conditions.

"Given that regulatory benefits are partially dependent on a pick up in advertising demand, we would not expect a sale in the near future," UBS analyst Daniel Kerven said. "We believe that Bouygues is unlikely to sell until the full benefits of regulation and the sale of its Canal Plus stake are reflected in the TF1 share price."

A report Monday in French newspaper L'Expansion claimed that French President Nicolas Sarkozy has asked Bouygues CEO Martin Bouygues to sell the stake, but did not cite specific sources.