Spanish media and publishing giant Grupo Prisa has played down local reports that it is negotiating the sale of its 21.3% stake in media subsidiary Sogecable to Vivendi Universal. The move would double the French giant's stake to 42.54%.

An article published in Spanish newspaper El Mundo suggested that Vivendi Universal aims to push through a merger between Canal Satellite Digital (CSD) and Telefonica-backed rival Via Digital that has been long been mooted. It aims to leave Sogecable with control over analogue pay-TV channel Canal Plus Espana.

In a statement, Prisa said it "flatly denies" any negotiations to modify the shareholder structure of Sogecable as well as any separation of CSD and Canal Plus in Spain.

But local commentators have not ruled out the possibility of a move. Vivendi has made moves to tidy up its portfolio of pay-TV interests in Europe. It engineered the merger of Canal Plus Poland with its major rival, sold off its Scandinavian operation and is attempting to buy control of Stream in Italy where its Telepiu is the loss-making major player.

Prisa has also long been rumoured to be considering a sale of its media subsidiary because of ongoing losses at Sogecable digital satellite television platform CSD. And in July 2001, Prisa sold off a 45% stake in Sogecable's rights arm Sogepaq to StudioCanal for an estimated $36.2m (Euros 42.8m).

At the same time Admira, Telefonica's media division, is understood to be taking another look at Via Digital's viability.