(Adds comments from analysts)
By Julia Love
MEXICO CITY, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Shares in Mexican broadcaster Televisa plunged the most in more than 17 years on Friday after weak earnings and comments by Co-Chief Executive Alfonso de Angoitia that a spinoff of business units would not benefit shareholders.
After the stock market closed on Thursday, Televisa posted an 84 percent drop in net profit for the fourth quarter, citing declines in advertising and losses in other businesses.
On Friday, its shares fell another 8.43 percent to 45 pesos, the biggest fall since early 2001.
Televisa’s shares have been under pressure for weeks, and in late January hit their lowest level in more than nine years, slipping below 43.60 pesos.
Last year, Televisa said it was considering spinning off certain business units, in particular its cable division.
De Angoitia said on an investor call that the company closely studied the possibility, including analyzing the models of its U.S. peers, but decided Televisa was more valuable as a whole.
“We concluded that a partial or complete separation... will not produce shareholder value and would have a negative impact on our competitive position,” he said.
“What we have found is that vertical integration and consolidation are two of the most important dynamics that companies are pursuing,” said de Angoitia, who took the reins last year from longtime chief executive Emilio Azcarraga.
De Angoitia indicated that the biggest Spanish language content producer did not rule out deals in the future, including the potential acquisition of a competitor or even the sale of Televisa as a whole.
Like other broadcasters, Televisa, famed for soaps, chat shows and news programming, has struggled to offset declines in advertising as streaming services such as Netflix claim more viewers.
In recent years, the broadcaster has shaken up its management team and sold assets to double down on its core business of content distribution.
Despite the hits to the share price, some analysts said keeping the company together was the right move.
From AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner to Walt Disney Co’s purchase of assets from Twenty-First Century Fox, more and more companies are seeking to unite content and distribution, said David Joyce, an analyst with investment bank Evercore.
“It’s wise for Televisa to keep content and distribution together for economies of scale and the synergies that that provides,” he said.
De Angoitia suggested deals may still be in the offing. He reiterated Televisa’s interest in buying Mexican cable company Megacable, which would create a cable powerhouse, but said the broadcaster has not been able to find the right arrangement.
Due to its high market share in pay television, Televisa would likely have to unload its stake in subscription TV service Sky in order to buy Megacable, said Alik Garcia of brokerage firm Intercam. He noted that all signs point to a challenging year ahead.
De Angoitia said he anticipates declines in government advertising during the administration of Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The company could also face new regulation this year when Mexico’s Federal Telecommunications Institute reviews measures against Televisa and Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim’s America Movil, which have been singled out for their high market share in broadcasting and telecommunications, respectively.
“I see a very complicated scenario for 2019,” Garcia said. (Reporting by Julia Love; additional reporting by Noe Torres; editing by Dave Graham, Tom Brown and Dan Grebler)