July 15, 2020

Banco Santander manages to keep Javier Monzón as non-executive president of Grupo Prisa



Banco Santander wins the battle to keep its trusted man at the helm of Prisa. Javier Monzón will continue as non-executive president of the main Spanish communication group. The vote at the General Shareholders’ Meeting held this Monday has confirmed this with a 62.28% of votes in favor of Ana Patrica Botín’s man in a hurry. Monzón is also a director of Banco Santander and president of Openbank, the digital banking subsidiary of the largest financial institution in Spain. Prisa CEO, Manuel Mirat, has defended the independence of the company and has indicated a “possible sale of Santillana” as a way to reduce the company’s debt.

The Board, which was held electronically due to the coronavirus, had an 81.6% stake in the shareholders. It only had the intervention of a shareholder who has asked for the problems to sell the Portuguese subsidiary Media Capital.

At the moment the contest between the main shareholders has ended. The shareholder war for control of Prisa broke out with the designation of Javier Moreno as new director of the newspaper El País to replace Soledad Gallego-Díaz, whose contract ended a few weeks ago. Thus, a larval dispute was seen that is settled between the shareholders of one of the main communication groups in Spain. On the one hand, there is the company’s largest owner and non-executive vice president, the Armenian Joseph Oughourlian, who through the Amber Capital fund controls 29.8% of the company’s capital, compared to Ana Patricia Botín, president of Santander, the financial institution that adds 4.1% of Prisa’s shares. Despite the fact that Oughourlian has a third of the company under his power, it was Botín’s man in the company, Javier Monzón along with the CEO of Prisa who encouraged Javier Moreno as director of El País, the main head of the group, without the owner of Amber being informed.

Telefónica has chosen not to open a war with the rest of the shareholders and has voted in favor of Monzón remaining as the top non-executive director of the media conglomerate. He is 9% in a hurry. The little interventionist position of the president of the multinational telecommunications company, José María Álvarez-Pallete, has little to do with the way of managing his predecessor César Alierta, who did not hesitate to move to remove Monzón from Indra’s presidency with the help of the Government of Mariano Rajoy. Market sources assure that Álvarez-Pallete would have preferred to put in front of Prisa a professional with experience in the media, cut off from other Ibex companies, and who was dedicated to seeking the company’s profitability.

Thus, Monzón has had the support of Santander, which has 4.1% of the shareholding, to which should be added 7.6% of the Polanco family, heirs of the founder, and ehe Mexican transport businessman Roberto Alcántara, who has transferred the right to vote his 5% to the Polancos. Both Alcántara and the founding family have received financing from Santander in the latest capital increases so as not to see their participation diluted.

In addition, Ana Patricia Botín’s man also reportedly added 4.3% of billionaire Carlos Slim, who joined the company on the advice of former President Felipe González, with whom he has a strong friendship and interests in Latin America; with 4% of the also Mexican businessman, Carlos Fernández González, who was a director of Santander; with 9% of the HSBC bank, an entity that appears on the Falciani List on money laundering; and Qatari Sheikh Abdullah Al-Thani, who owns 5.1%.

Despite the mistrust that Monzón generates in a part of the shareholding, the pressure from Santander and the interested information that behind its departure there is an operation orchestrated by the Government of Pedro Sánchez have disrupted the change that the maximum shareholder of the company intended. Amber, who has finally chosen to abstain from the vote, has only had one other group of funds at her side: Melqart Asset Management, with 3.6%, Vanguard (1.6%) and Polygon (1%). The sum of the fund Oughourlian plus the rest does not reach 38%.

The reality of the figures would not have endorsed Monzón’s continuity. Since his arrival to the non-executive presidency of PrisaIn December 2018, the share of the media company has only fallen: it has gone from 1.75 euros to 0.49 euros per share (a decrease of 72%) in the price of this Monday. Although a part of this fall is due to the impact of the coronavirus, just before the great closure the share of Prisa was 1.33 euros (-24%). In 2019, Prisa lost 182 million euros, while in the first quarter of 2020, the red numbers improved but reached 26.1 million.

Despite these data, Monzón has indicated that he appeared before the Shareholders’ Meeting “with the duties done”, while the CEO, Manuel Mirat, pointed out that Prisa “closed a positive year in 2019, with a solid behavior in the markets where we operate. ” Mirat has specified that the group tends to digitize and follow a subscription model and then point out a “possible sale of Santillana” as a way to reduce the company’s debt.

The CEO has highlighted the work of Javier Moreno and his return as the new director of El País to later defend the company’s independence, denouncing the “multiple attempts to attack” despite the rigorous journalism carried out by the Group’s professionals: ” We do not represent any power. “

The objective of Javier Moreno’s appointment was to shield an editorial line marked by a part of the owners of El País, even in the event that Monzón had not survived the General Shareholders’ Meeting, according to sources from Prisa. In the control of the editorial line, former president Felipe González has a lot of weight, who has repeatedly shown in the editorial boards of Prisa in which his opposition to the coalition government between PSOE and United Podemos participates every week and is clearly a supporter for unseating Pedro Sánchez of the leadership of the PSOE to reach an Executive of concentration between the PP and the socialists.

Former President of Prisa Juan Luis Cebrián has used his opinion pieces to reflect a position contrary to the Armenian investor. In the article published this Monday by Prisa’s newspaper, Save capitalism from capitalists, Cebrián asks the Government to legislate against the funds for their entry into “sectors of extraordinary importance in social development”, which includes everything from nursing homes to sheltered housing but also to the media, to finish the article requesting that the Public Administration enter the company but “without interference in the editorial line”.

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