The covid-19 has complicated the financial situation of Mediapro, the Catalan group that manages sports rights, especially football, audiovisual services and content production. After defaulting 170 million euros of the second payment of the contract of the broadcasting rights of the French league, the company founded by Jaume Roures Y Josep Maria ‘Tatxo’ Benet, has plunged that competition into a deep crisis. Currently, there is an “absolutely secret” mediation process to adjust the conditions of the contract and an agreement could be reached next month, according to industry sources.
In any case, this non-payment and the announcement that it will do the same with the next December payment, of 150 million, caused Moody’s, the risk rating agency to downgrade from ‘B1’ to ‘Caa1, three steps, the note of Joye Media, the parent company of the group, which means placing its credit rating at the “low solvency“It has also done it with Invictius Media, a subsidiary. In April it had already downgraded its solvency note.
The company attributes this to the difficulties experienced by the entire sector since “the price of the competition [780 millones de euros en cuatro años] to obtain the rights in France was at a very different time from the current one. “The pandemic, which has emptied the stadiums, has impacted the football market and raised financial difficulties that in a more normal situation would not have appeared, as the viruses with those with previous pathologies. The truth is that Moody’s affirms that the company liquidity problems. For this reason, in June, it received a syndicated loan of about 55 million with a State guarantee, through the ICO, conditional on its partners making a contribution of the same amount, which they did, according to company sources.
The group has the Chinese fund Orient Hontai as its main shareholder, with 53%, since 2018; the British company WPP, with 22.5% and the founders ‘Tatxo’ Benet and Jaume Roures, with 12% each. That oxygen balloon in the form of credit truncated the plans of the company and, especially of its main shareholder and its two founders, to go public this year or next year and make cash. And it is not the only disappointment for the Chinese investor, since he does not see covered the plans that Mediapro is the great European leader in football rights: it was ruled out in Italy for not providing guarantees and now problems have arisen in France.
Without the Qataris
In its current situation, with a debt of more than 713 million euros last September, both Moody’s and other analysts highlight its dependence on the Spanish League, although together with it it controls the rights of 14 others around the world. The possibility of turning to their Qatari BeiNSports partners, with whom they even competed in France, has closed the door to an almost unlimited checkbook.
2019 was not a bad year for Mediapro, although expectations were not fully met. The parent company, Joye Media, obtained an operating result of 224 million, almost the same as the 222 million in 2018; and a turnover of 1.8 billion, 7.5% less.
One way to grow could be the FC Barcelona, just like BeiNSports does with Paris Saint Germain (PSG) in France. It has been speculated that Jaume Roures was behind the candidacy of Victor Font to the presidency of the Catalan club, after precipitating the fall of the Josep Maria Bartomeu by the pressure of the Generalitat to celebrate the motion of censure as soon as possible despite the state of alarm. The ties with the Government exist. For example, Mediapro ceded its facilities as a press center for the 1-O referendum.
From the group they categorically deny this information about Font. “They don’t even know each other,” they sentence. And about the possibility that Tatxo Benet was a candidate, company sources affirm that it has been very clear when they have asked him: “It has not crossed my mind.” And they say the same about Roures.