Televisa eyes 'Big Brother' maker Endemol


MEXICO CITY -- Mexico's Televisa, the world's leading Spanish-language show producer, said on Wednesday it is considering an investment in Dutch producer Endemol, the creator of reality TV hit"Big Brother."

Televisa chairman and majority owner Emilio Azcarraga told Reuters that an investment in Endemol Entertainment Holding NV was among several opportunities his company is pondering.

"We're looking at investment opportunities in Televisa's business areas, in production, distribution and entertainment," Azcarraga said at an event in Mexico City. "Obviously, Endemol is a good opportunity and we're studying it, and we'll see what can be done."

Spanish telecommunications company Telefonica owns 75% of Endemol, but is eager to get out of the content production business to concentrate on distribution.

Televisa shares were down 0.75% at $64.43 in noon trading, while stock in Endemol, the maker of TV game and quiz shows such as "Deal or No Deal" and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," rose 1.14%.

Earlier this month, the Financial Times reported that Televisa and U.S. private equity firm Thomas H. Lee Partners were in a race for the 75% stake in Endemol, bought by Telefonica in 2000 for 5.5 billion euros ($7.5 billion).

The companies were two of at least five groups that made it to the second round of the Endemol auction two weeks ago, media reports have said.

Asked whether Televisa would team with Thomas H. Lee Partners to bid for Endemol, Azcarraga said that no decision had been made with that regard.

"That has not been decided yet, nor the way (we would do it). Whether we go ahead (with the bid) or not has not been decided," Azcarraga said.

Cyrte, the investment vehicle of Endemol co-founder John de Mol, as well as Endemol's former chief operating officer, Tom Barnicoat and another group led by the head of Endemol's French operations, Stephane Courbit, have been named as other possible bidders for the Dutch producer.

Analysts have cited Endemol's run of hit formats, global network, strong cash generation and under-leveraged financial position as attractive features for potential bidders.

Investors have been wondering about Televisa's next move after the Mexican company sold its investment in U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster Univision Communications Inc.

The sale of its stake in Univision gave Televisa slightly more than $1 billion, part of which is being put towards a dividend payment this year. Televisa still has a contract to provide Univision with shows until 2017.

Last year, Televisa lost a bidding war for Univision against an investor group that included Thomas H. Lee Partners and media mogul Haim Saban.

But the Mexican company is still interested in tapping U.S. Hispanics, one of the fastest-growing, and underserved, advertising markets in the United States.

"The U.S. market is very important to us ... and we are looking at which other possibilities we have to do business there, via Univision or another company," Azcarraga said. He did not elaborate.