$10.7B bid in for Univision

News from the business world.

Compiled from Times wires
Published June 22, 2006

A private investor group is offering about $10.7-billion to acquire Univision Communications Inc., while a second group hoping to assemble a bid for the nation's largest Spanish-language broadcaster has lost several key investors, said people familiar with the situation Wednesday. The investor group that made the bid of slightly more than $35 per share is composed of private equity firms Madison Dearborn Partners LLC, Thomas H. Lee Partners LP, Providence Equity Partners Inc., Texas Pacific Group Inc. and media mogul Haim Saban. Wall Street analysts have said the company could sell for as much as $40 a share, or about $12.2-billion. An offer of $35 a share would be worth about $10.7-billion. The bid was less than the $40 per share the company had reportedly been seeking. A second investor group was working on details of a potential offer. That group consisted of two of Univision's largest shareholders and programming suppliers - Mexican media giant Grupo Televisa SA and Venezuelan broadcaster Venevision - and several private equity firms.

Citrus crop tax vote is delayed

Facing uncertain crop yields and resounding opposition from growers, Florida officials on Wednesday delayed voting on a plan that would raise taxes against farmers to fund more advertising for orange juice and grapefruit sales. The Florida Department of Citrus based its proposed spending plan for next year on production of 180-million boxes of oranges - lower than all but two of the last 13 years, but still possibly too high for the hurricanes-and disease-ravaged crops ready for harvest. More accurate crop estimates were expected to be available next month, when the commission could again meet for the tax vote.

MySpace acts to shield youths

Starting next week, MySpace, the popular online hangout, will make it harder for strangers to send messages to younger teenagers. The site, which has more than 70-million members, has been under pressure because members are frequently subjected to lewd or inappropriate messages and occasionally lured into dangerous real-world encounters. The site will also stop showing advertisements for certain products - like online dating sites - to those under 18.

Goodyear to cut tire lines and jobs

Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., the world's largest tiremaker, on Wednesday said it was axing a third of its private label tire business and cutting manufacturing jobs to improve profits. The Akron-based company said about 10 brands of tires manufactured by Goodyear but sold under other names to a small number of wholesale customers will be eliminated over the next year. Goodyear will keep the remaining two-thirds of its private label business. Goodyear has been cutting costs as part of its $1-billion turnaround plan it started three years ago after record losses, accounting errors and a stock dive.

Beef shipments to Japan may resume

U.S. beef shipments to Japan could resume within weeks under a new agreement, but the Bush administration cautioned Wednesday that the deal to restore trade interrupted by Japanese mad-cow disease concerns could still fall through. Hours earlier, Japan announced it would end a ban on importing U.S. beef pending inspections of American meat processing plants. Audit teams will arrive this weekend and complete their work by July 21, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns said. Japan suspended shipments in January after inspectors found a veal shipment containing backbone, which Asian countries consider at risk for mad cow disease. The cuts are considered safe in the United States and elsewhere.

Zocor price slashing fights generic

It's a novel approach in the long battle between brand name drugs and their generic rivals: Merck & Co. is slashing the price of its cholesterol drug Zocor so low for one insurance plan that members will actually pay less for the original pills than for the generic. That tactic has some consumer advocates fearing the practice will spark a movement among Big Pharma, compounding other pressures they fear will weaken the generic industry and compromise the country's source of low-cost drugs. Under the deal, members of UnitedHealth Group Inc. will pay around $10 for a month's supply of brand name Zocor and $40 for a generic after the drug loses patent protection on Friday. Both Merck and UnitedHealth say the arrangement demonstrates how market competition drives down costs, and that's good for patients.

Wal-Mart faces strike in U.K.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s Asda, the second-largest U.K. food retailer, faces a strike by its 7,000 warehouse workers over pay and working conditions. The GMB union's Asda Wal-Mart Shop Stewards National Council and local and national GMB officials will meet today to set dates and time for industrial action, says a statement posted Wednesday on the union's Web site. Almost three-quarters of workers at Asda's 20 distribution depots voted to strike after failing to reach agreement on collective bargaining. "GMB members have been subjected to unprecedented interference and propaganda by Asda Wal-Mart," general secretary Paul Kenny said in the statement.

Company: Don't fear new "Ma Bell'

BellSouth Corp.'s merger with AT&T Inc. won't re-create the "Ma Bell" of old, the company said in a filing Wednesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Ma Bell was the legally franchised, monopoly provider of circuit-switched telephone service during most of the last century. "Competition in those markets was a violation of the law," BellSouth's filing said. In the filing, which highlights the benefits of the merger, Atlanta-based BellSouth said the merger will "create a company better able to compete."