Televisa Denies Negotiations With Microsoft/Telmex

LOS ANGELES (04/06/2000) - In a surprising statement that contradicts its top executive, Grupo Televisa SA, Mexico's largest media company, today denied it is in negotiations with the country's dominant carrier Teléfonos de México SA de CV (Telmex) and Microsoft Corp. to create a Web portal.

Yesterday, Grupo Televisa's Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Emilio Azcárraga Jean said that his company is talking with Telmex and Microsoft to develop a Web portal, according to published reports.

However, Grupo Televisa's statement filed today with the Mexican Stock Exchange told a different story.

"Grupo Televisa wishes to lead the Internet market for the Spanish-language world and is currently in the process of creating of a broad horizontal Internet portal," the statement said. "Televisa will own 100 percent of the business... However it does not reject the possibility to form future strategic alliances or partnerships with regional vendors or other companies...

Currently, Televisa is not in negotiations with third parties for its portal esmas.com, expected to launch in the second quarter of this year."

Mexican telecommunications carrier Telmex also denied that negotiations are going on with Televisa in a statement released yesterday. But to further complicate matters, Arturo Elías Abud, Telmex's director of trade and legal issues, is quoted in that same release as saying that "there has always been a dialogue but there aren't concrete negotiations going on at the moment."

Two weeks ago, Telmex and Microsoft launched a Spanish-language portal called T1msn. [See "UPDATE - MS ESC: Gates Details Microsoft's LatAm Portal" March 21.

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Televisa's Azcárraga Jean told reporters yesterday that the companies had considered joining forces, but Telmex and Microsoft are insisting on exclusive rights to Televisa's content, and exclusive rights among Internet companies to advertise Televisa media outlets, according to a Dow Jones report.

"If this gossip is going on it means that something is cooking," said Carlos Guzmán, Mexico's telecom analyst for Washington D.C.-based Americas Telecom Consultants. "It's possible that Telmex/Microsoft are more cautious than Televisa because of their pending trials in Mexico and the U.S., respectively."

Guzmán also said it is possible that Televisa could be interested in partnering with other successful Latin American portals, such as StarMedia Network Inc.

Televisa is in a good position to offer content to portals, the analyst added.

Grupo Televisa can be reached at http://www.televisa.com.mx/. Telmex can be reached at http://www.telmex.com.mx/. The Mexican Stock Market can be reached at http://www.bmv.com.mx/.

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