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Carlos Slim Exerts His Power as Televisa Suffers

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Televisa stocks have fallen as Carlos Slim refuses to advertise with the broadcaster.

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The world's largest Spanish-language broadcaster, Televisa (TV), has seen its stock slide consistently over the last two weeks -- to its lowest level in three months -- as investors appear anxious over the company's second-quarter earnings.

Profits were at just over $150 million in the second-quarter, matching the same period in 2010 though on sales growth of 4.7%. Broadcast sales fell 5.9% as a row with the world's richest man, Carlos Slim, led him to pull all advertising.

Slim's companies played a huge part in Televisa's broadcast sales, representing 3.8% in 2010. The fall was even offset by a rise in advertising spending for the soccer World Cup in South Africa.

"We would welcome [Slim's companies] back as clients anytime," Jose Baston, Televisa's president of television and content, told Bloomberg.

"People focused a lot on the fact that net income was flat," Enrique Gomez-Tagle, an analyst at HSBC Securities, told the agency. "We already knew the Slim effect, but maybe some people didn't have it very well understood."

After denying Slim the right to broadcast and finally enter the TV market, Mexican regulators are investigating whether he has snuck in through the back door. Slim's Telmex joined forces with satellite TV firm Dish Mexico in 2008, offering low-cost services. Rivals -- of which Slim has many -- have complained ever since. A Reuters investigation has discovered that regulators are beginning to explore whether the merger was legitimate.

"Carlos Slim has grown a lot," Slim-biographer Jose Martínez told the news agency. "But I think that he has reached his limit and has lost part of his power -- or maybe the competition is getting stronger."

The authors of the special report suggest that Slim may be a victim of his own success in Mexico, where roughly half the population live in poverty. "[Being the world's richest man] made him visible, when before he was invisible," Jana Palacios, consultant at competition lobby group IMCO, told Reuters. "Slim is the favorite villain."

Slim's power seems even more evident as the New York Times has agreed to pay back a $250 million loan it took from the Mexican tycoon two years ago earlier than expected. Interest will add a further $29 million to the amount owed. Slim's family still holds a 7% stake in the company. There were rumors earlier this year that the businessman was looking to double this stake as well as expressing interest in Newsweek.

Border Control

USA Today is drawing focus to the reality of the US-Mexico border, bucking the trend of talking down the area by suggesting that crime rates have actually been falling for years, at least on the US side.

"US border cities were statistically safer on average than other cities in their states," writes the newspaper. "Those border cities, big and small, have maintained lower crime rates than the national average, which itself has been falling."
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No positions in stocks mentioned.

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