Media bigwigs love Univision ( UVN), but the price tag on the big Spanish language broadcaster remains a sticking point. Time Warner ( TWX) finance chief Wayne Pace was the latest honcho to pay his respects to the Los Angeles TV and radio company. Echoing the comments a day earlier of CBS ( CBS) finance chief Fred Reynolds, Pace told investors at a Bank of America conference Thursday that Univision is a "great company" with great assets, but that Time Warner isn't exactly falling over itself in a rush to shell out $12 billion. The New York Post reported earlier this week that CBS was looking to join up with a partner in a deal that would be valued at about that much. Some industry observers think the price could end up even higher, though Univision is trading near its 52-week high and fetching around a $10.5 billion valuation after its recent up-for-sale runup. Media industry hard hitters seem to agree that Univision CEO Jerry Perenchio has an impressive, fast-growing network, along with TV and radio properties that virtually any company would love to absorb into their asset mix. But making a play for Univision's another story. Several media giants and a number of private equity firms are clearly interested, but the form that any partnerships might take isn't yet clear. Despite CBS' publicly stated reticence where price and regulatory hurdles are concerned, it and Time Warner are the most interested in Univision, with Disney ( DIS) and News Corp. ( NWS) still looking at it. Sources also said that private equity firm Bain Capital is "very interested," as are media equity players such as Providence. "Strategically, it's right in our wheelhouse," Time Warner's Pace said Thursday. But he stressed that the core priorities at Time Warner include completing a $20 billion share buyback forced by activist Carl Icahn, and funding AOL's resurgence. Pace said any acquisition would have to pay off immediately.
Sources close to Time Warner say partnering with other interested parties -- perhaps such as Mexico's Televisa ( TV) -- is also under consideration. Time Warner itself, unlike CBS and other media companies that bump up against ownership restrictions, would face little to no regulatory backlash from a Univision deal. Televisa, however, would, because of U.S. restrictions on foreign ownership of media properties. Meanwhile Liberty Media ( L) CEO Greg Maffei said that a hard charge at the Spanish language broadcaster was "not obvious" to his company. Liberty has diversified media holdings, including stakes in Time Warner and News Corp., that have been mentioned in conjunction with a willingness to own Univision. Liberty will soon form tracking stocks in an effort to better illuminate its investment vehicles along capital and interactive lines. Mexico's Televisa, a 10% stakeholder in Univision, is emerging as a huge player in the process. The company, already a programming supplier to Univision, could partner up with a Time Warner and/or private equity such as Providence and Madison Dearborn, as has been reported. Venezuela's Cisneros Group, which owns close to 10% of Univision, is also expected in the mix. Providence is said to be working in conjunction with billionaire media mogul Haim Saban, former owner of Fox Family Channel, which was sold to Disney in 2001.