Spain's leading pay TV unit up for sale

Prisa plans to sell all or part of Digital Plus

MADRID -- Spanish media empire Prisa plans to sell of all or part of its subsidiary Sogecable's pay TV business, Digital Plus, Prisa CEO Juan Luis Cebrian said Thursday.

The announcement comes after months of speculation about what Spain's leading media group planned to do with the dominant player in the pay TV sector.

Sogecable has increasingly channeled its resources into the pay platform's sister company, free-to-air sister broadcaster Cuatro, launched nearly two years ago.

Prisa said it had not started negotiations with anyone or given a sale mandate to any broker. The group said it did not rule out seeking financing in the market.

The group said in a statement it would "start the financial refinancing process, according to market conditions, evaluating divestment opportunities and the need to seek financing in the market."

Prisa raised its stake in Sogecable to 97.71% of Sogecable from about 50% earlier this month and will launch a squeeze-out bid for the rest of Sogecable.

Satellite platform Digital Plus, valued at about $4.73 billion by UBS, is the result of the merged Canal Satellite and Via Digital from 10 years ago, which held the lion's share of output deals and sports rights until recently. But rival media group Mediapro snagged the coveted rights to some of Spain's most lucrative sporting events last summer -- including the professional soccer league matches -- and has increasingly used the rights to leverage its own broadcaster, La Sexta.

Digital Plus has 2 million subscribers, a number that has not moved significantly in more than a year.

Local media cited Vivendi, Murdoch, Slim and Telefonica as potential buyers.