October 5, 2007 3:00 am

Clarín media group eyes record Argentine IPO

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Grupo Clarín, Argentina's biggest media group and one of the most powerful in the Spanish-speaking world, is planning to float 17 per cent of its stock in London and Buenos Aires.

The move will be the largest Argentine offering of recent years, and is expected to raise $500m to $600m.

The group, which owns Latin America's top-selling daily paper, Clarín, and the largest cable television operation in the region by subscribers, will use the proceeds to pursue regional growth and pay down debt.

The group also has internet interests.

The sale comprises 15m new shares and 35m being sold by shareholders at an indicated price range of 28 to 35 pesos ($9-$11), or $17.88 to $22.35 per global depositary share.

That puts a value of about $3bn on the company.

Pricing will be overnight on October 18 and the stock is expected to debut on October 19.

The structure of the sale will depend on demand, but the largest portion is expected to be bought by international investors and trade in London, which was chosen for its expertise with emerging markets and media stocks.

Clarín's original flotation plans were put on hold by Argentina's 2001-2002 financial crisis.

However, with the recent market turbulence subsiding, appetite for the sale is now expected to be strong.

"The listing is expected to further enhance the company's financial strength and position it to pursue future growth opportunities," chairman Horacio Magnetto said in a statement.

"It will be used to develop technology in the market and probably to explore regional expansion," commented one source close to the deal.

Clarín has debts of some $900m.

However, these do not fall due for a couple of years, and the company is under no urgent financial pressure.

Goldman Sachs has held a 17.1 per cent stake since 1999 in a private equity fund and is reducing its holding to around 10 per centin order to realise returns for those investors.

The London and Buenos Aires flotation is expected to earn $150m to $200m.

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