CLT-Ufa is to buy an 11% stake in Spanish free broadcaster Antena 3 in a move that further tightens an emerging European TV production and distribution network.
According to unconfirmed reports, the stake is being sold by Bank Of New York and Spanish telecoms giant Telefonica will maintain an unchanged 47% holding in the channel, which gives it effective management control.
The move strengthens links between two of Europe's most aggressive media giants - Telefonica and Germany's Bertelsmann. Bertelsmann, which co-owns CLT-Ufa, was last week named as the preferred media partner of the new Internet group to be formed from the merger of search engine Lycos and Telefonica offshoot Terra.
Although the stake is the company's first direct foothold in Spain, CLT-Ufa is currently merging with the UK's Pearson Television which has extensive Spanish interests including a 10% holding in Antena 3. In a parallel move, also announced this week, Bertelsmann is buying out the minority interests in BOL Spain, the Spanish subsidiary of its Internet bookshop Books On Line.
Antena 3 is Spain's largest free-TV channel with audience share of 23.3% in the first quarter of the current year and profits of $114m in 1999. Other shareholders include Banco Santander Central Hispano, which has a stake of at least 12.8%.
Telefonica, which also owns pay-broadcaster Via Digital and has a 5% stake in Pearson, recently announced that it is acquiring multi-national production empire Endemol. It is now considering a flotation of Telefonica Media after the unit has digested Endemol, but it is not clear whether this will contain content operations only or whether Telefonica's growing Latin American cable networks will also be included in the mix.
Following CLT-Ufa's investment in Antena 3, Bertelsmann president Thomas Middelhoff and Manuel Garcia Duran, head of institutional relations, communication, marketing and publicity for Telefonica, will be named vice presidents and board members of the Spanish channel.