After numerous delays to its planned initial public offering, Univision Communications’ owners are reportedly considering an alternate exit strategy—an outright sale of the company. The Hispanic media giant, which owns 64 radio stations, 59 television stations and a stable of cable networks and digital properties, has been fielding offers from suitors, including media mogul John Malone of Liberty Media.
Malone and Liberty CEO Greg Maffei huddled with Univision’s financial backers—billionaire Haim Saban and Providence Equity Partners’ Jonathan Nelson—at the Sun Valley media conference this month, according to The Wall Street Journal. “However, the two sides were far apart on valuation, and it is unclear if a deal—with Mr. Malone or anyone else—could be reached,” the Journal says. “It is also unclear what terms were discussed.”
Boutique investment bank LionTree is one of the advisers Univision is using to size up interest from potential bidders, the Journal adds.
Univision has been contemplating an IPO for the past four years after efforts to sell the company failed to attract the big-ticket offers Saban and its other backers had hoped for.
Still, the largest Spanish-language chain in the nation isn’t ruling out an IPO, which it first filed for in 2015 but has yet to pull the trigger on.
Privately held Univision is currently owned by a group of six investors, including Saban and Mexican media giant Televisa, who purchased the company for $12.3 billion in 2006 in one of the biggest buys of the leveraged buyout era. Together they own a combined 96.8% of the equity in the New York-based company.
Malone’s Liberty Media has lately been expanding its media holdings. SiriusXM Radio, which it owns a majority stake in, recently purchased a $480 million stake in Pandora. Discovery Communications, in which Malone holds a 28% voting interest, has been having discussions about buying competing cable TV player Scripps Networks Interactive. Malone also holds an interest in Charter Communications.
But Malone isn’t Univision’s only interested suitor. Televisa, which already owns a 10% piece of Univision and is a major supplier of Univision programming, is said to be a potential buyer, if the Federal Communications Commission further relaxes foreign ownership rules. In early January the FCC gave the green light for Univision to increase its foreign ownership to as much as 49%, including a possible 40% stake for Televisa. Two weeks later the two companies forged a sweeping new content partnership. But price is another hurdle for Televisa. When Univision’s owners approached the company about a sale three years ago, they were looking for more than $20 billion for the company.