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Liberty Global Working With Hemisphere Media on a Bid for Univision

Gerry Smith, Liana Baker and Nabila Ahmed

(Bloomberg) -- Liberty Global Plc.’s investment arm is working with Hemisphere Media Group Inc. on a bid for Spanish-language media giant Univision Communications Inc., according to people familiar with the matter.

Final offers are due in February, said one of the people, who asked to not be identified because the matter isn’t public. The private equity firm Platinum Equity is also interested, as well as former Viacom Inc. chief financial officer Wade Davis, who has backing from institutional investors, the people said.

No final decision has been made and Liberty Global, whose chairman is billionaire John Malone, Hemisphere and Platinum Equity could opt to not proceed with offers, the people said.

“This is a small investment that Liberty Global Ventures is exploring,” Liberty Global spokesman Matt Beake said in a statement. Beake declined to comment further.

Representatives for Univision, Hemisphere and Davis declined to comment. A representative for Platinum Equity didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Liberty Global shares, which have slid 10% in the past year, fell 0.9% to $20.16 Wednesday in New York trading, giving the company a market value of about $12.4 billion.

Miami-based Spanish-language broadcaster Hemisphere, after rising as much as 3.6%, closed down 0.4% at $13.95 in New York trading Wednesday, valuing the company at $558 million. The shares have risen 9.3% in the past year.

Univision Debt

Buying Univision could be a stretch for Hemisphere: Univision had $7.4 billion of debt and $260 million of stockholder equity as of Sept. 30, according to regulatory filings.

The broadcaster has struggled financially since a 2007 leveraged buyout and is engaged in a ratings battle with its rival, Comcast Corp.’s Telemundo. Univision rejected a takeover offer in 2017 from Discovery Inc. that had valued the company at more than $13 billion. It also scrapped an initial public offering in 2018. Discovery is part of Malone’s investment portfolio.

In July, Univision said it had engaged financial advisers to review strategic options including a sale. Grupo Televisa SAB, one of Univision’s owners, supports the sale process, one of the people familiar with the matter said. A representative for Televisa declined to comment.

Gizmodo, Jezebel

Since being named Univision’s chief executive officer in 2018, Vince Sadusky has sought to turn the company around by refocusing on Spanish-language media. The company sold Gizmodo Media Group, which includes the websites Jezebel and Deadspin, last year.

Univision has also secured distribution deals with most major pay-TV providers and has been reducing debt. Last quarter, the company’s sales increased 8.5% as a result of higher advertising and subscriber fee revenue.

Churchill Capital Corp. II, serial dealmaker Michael Klein’s blank-check company, had considered bidding for Univision, Bloomberg News reported in October.

Private Equity Backers

Univision is backed by the private equity firms Madison Dearborn Partners, TPG, Providence Equity Partners, Saban Capital Group and Thomas H. Lee Partners.

Hemisphere’s networks include Spanish-language movie channel Cine Latino and WAPA, one of Puerto Rico’s top broadcasters, according to its website. It also owns channels targeting Central Americans, Dominicans and Puerto Ricans living in the U.S.

The Wall Street Journal reported in December that Hemisphere, Platinum Equity and Davis were interested in buying Univision.

(Updates with Wade Davis bid in second paragraph. An earlier version of this story was corrected to report that Liberty Global is working with Hemisphere, not Liberty Media.)

To contact the reporters on this story: Gerry Smith in New York at gsmith233@bloomberg.net;Liana Baker in New York at lbaker75@bloomberg.net;Nabila Ahmed in New York at nahmed54@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net, ;Liana Baker at lbaker75@bloomberg.net, Michael Hytha, Matthew Monks

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