(Adds details on Iusacell phone business, regulation; updates share price)
By Elinor Comlay
MEXICO CITY, Feb 21 (Reuters) - Shares of Mexican broadcaster and pay TV provider Grupo Televisa, the world’s biggest producer of Spanish-language content, rose on Friday, a day after it raised the value of its investment in U.S. broadcaster Univision.
The company raised the value of its option to convert loans to Univision into an equity position after it said an anonymous investor took a $125 million stake in the company, valuing it at $8 billion or 15 times core profit.
Televisa shares rose 1.51 percent to 75.74 pesos in early afternoon trading, after climbing more than 6 percent immediately following the company’s conference call with analysts.
The company has equity and debentures that, with U.S. regulatory approval, could be converted into a 37 percent stake in Univision.
Executives from Televisa, which reported a drop in fourth-quarter profit on Thursday, said they increased the fair-value of their option in Univision by $385 million.
That was a conservative increase, Televisa Chairman Alfonso de Angoitia said on the call with analysts. “At that valuation that was paid by that financial investor we could value it at $3 billion, but we are being conservative.”
The Mexican firm also expects royalties from Univision to increase this year on rising demand for Televisa’s content.
Regulatory changes expected in Mexico could introduce more competition into the country’s television, Internet and phone markets this year.
Televisa is likely to be deemed a dominant broadcaster by Mexico’s regulator in a decision expected in March. That means the company will have to offer its public broadcast channels to pay-television producers for free as part of a process known as ‘must carry, must offer.’
“In spite of the negative impact of ‘must offer’ in our content business, we are giving guidance for the content revenue growth in 2014 of mid-single digits,” said Angoitia.
“For 2014, we expect Univision to continue delivering solid top line results, potentially resulting in royalties to Televisa of $350 million,” he added.
Royalties from Univision were $273.2 million in 2013.
Televisa is also hoping that Mexico’s new telephone and broadcast laws, expected to be presented to Congress shortly, will help its phone business Iusacell capture some market share from Carlos Slim’s America Movil, which has 70 percent of Mexico’s cellphone market.
Losses at Iusacell, which is a joint venture between Televisa and billionaire Richard Salinas’ Grupo Salinas, contributed to Televisa’s weak results on Thursday.
“We took an impairment charge in our investment in Iusacell of close to $355 million,” Angoitia said. “The change in the regulation has taken longer than we had expected.”
The new laws were originally scheduled to be presented to Congress in December but were delayed.
Iusacell subscribers increased 9 percent over the year to about 8 million at the end of 2013, for a market share of about 8 percent, Angoitia said.
“Performance has improved; we’ve reduced costs and expenses,” he said. “However, if the regulatory situation doesn’t improve, it will be very difficult for this company to become profitable on a net basis.”
$1 = 13.2690 Mexican pesos Reporting by Elinor Comlay, additional reporting by Michael O'Boyle; Editing by Richard Chang