The businessman Blas Herrero, owner of the group of radio stations Kiss FM, would be leading a group of Spanish investors to launch an offer for Prisa’s media business, according to the newspaper Expansion. The offer would be around 150 million euros, according to sources familiar with the operation, and would be advised by Société Générale.
The announcement of the possible operation has taken place once the pacification of the shareholders has been achieved after a power war between top shareholders. Banco Santander won the battle at the last shareholders’ meeting to keep its henchman at the helm of Prisa, Javier Monzón, as non-executive president of the main Spanish communication group. The vote at the General Meeting of Shareholders held on June 29 decided with 62.28% of votes in favor of Ana Patricia Botín’s man in Prisa. Monzón is also a director of Banco Santander and president of Openbank, a digital banking subsidiary of the largest financial institution in Spain. The CEO of Prisa, Manuel Mirat, then defended the independence of the company and pointed to a “possible sale of Santillana” as a way to reduce the company’s debt.
Industry sources tell elDiario.es that the offer launched by Blas Herrero would be supported by Ana Botín, the president of Banco Santander. Although the largest financial institution in Spain only has a direct 4% stake in Prisa, Botín has used its ability to influence to control a loss-making company (Prisa lost 182 million euros in 2019 and 209 in the first nine months of 2020) , but that it is one of the main means of communication in Spain when the economic recovery after the pandemic is being designed.
In fact, company sources assured elDiario.es that the appointment of Javier Moreno as the new director of El País replacing Soledad Gallego-Díaz, he responded to a maneuver by Botín to ensure a certain editorial line. Then, the main shareholder of the company, the Armenian Joseph Oughourlian, who through the Amber Capital fund controls 29.8% of Prisa, learned of Moreno’s appointment when it had already been approved.
The media and education company is in a race to reduce suffocating debt. For this reason, Prisa recently agreed to sell the business of the Santillana publishing house in Spain to the Finnish company Samona Corporation for 465 million euros, an amount that will be fully paid in cash at the closing date of the operation, once the debt has been discounted. net as of June 30, estimated at about 53 million.
The sale of part of the jewel in the crown of Prisa was going to be aimed at the amortization of 400 million of debt (with which the total net debt will be cut by more than 30%, which at the end of March 2020 amounted to 1,067 million), but the company already warned that the operation would establish the framework for a future effective separation of the Education and Media businesses.
Just when this separation occurs, Blas Herrero appears with an offer for the media business that, according to some sources, would have Botín as a shadow warper. The extraordinary general meeting of shareholders to approve the sale of the Spanish business from Santillana to Sanoma, has been called electronically for next December 18.
The last known movements of the Asturian businessman had gone through another sector. Herrero was studying his possible entry into the shareholding of the Asturian engineering firm Duro Felguera, immersed in a serious crisis. The owner of Kiss FM admitted to elDiario.es his interest in the company and considered the eventual state bailout of the group to be good news, whose board of directors agreed on Tuesday to request to benefit from the measures of the fund for strategic companies of the Sociedad Estatal de Participaciones Industrial (SEPI).