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Canal Plus mulls Spanish move

Canal Plus CEO Bertrand Méheut is mulling the possible acquisition of a stake in Spanish pay TV operator Digital Plus, according to press reports.

Méheut told the Financial Times newspaper that he was “open” to buying the Spanish pay broadcaster, but said that there had been no talks with majority owner Prisa since last year, when the Spanish group rejected a joint offer from Canal Plus parent company Vivendi and Telefónica. Spanish regulators have just conditionally approved a purchase by Mediaset’s Telecinco of a 22% stake in Digital Plus.

Méheut also indicated that Canal Plus would not overpay for exclusive rights to French Ligue 1 football rights when they are renewed in 2012.

Liberum Capital placed a “buy” recommendation on Vivendi following Méheut’s interview. Analysts said the mention of Digtial Plus was “surprising” but pointed out that Canal Plus may believe “it has the upper hand in negotiations given the lack of subscriber growth in the business”. The analysts also noted that Méheut was planning a launch of pay-TV services in Brazil, where Vivendi owns telco GVT.

Liberum estimated the cost of a Vivendi acquisition of Digital Plus could involve an outlay of €1.31 billion, approximately the same price Vivendi recently refused to pay for Lagardère’s 22% stake in Canal Plus.