* WSJ reports Televisa to buy 50 pct of Iusacell
* Unnamed source tells newspaper deal worth $1.6 bln
* Purchase gives Televisa way into mobile phone market (Adds analyst’s comment, share price)
MEXICO CITY, April 6 (Reuters) - Top Mexican broadcaster Televisa will buy a 50 percent stake in mobile operator Grupo Iusacell, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday, citing a source close to the transaction.
The deal would give Televisa, which already has broadcast, cable, satellite, publishing and gaming businesses, a foothold in the mobile market dominated in Mexico by mogul Carlos Slim, who is the world’s richest man. [ID:nN09164396]
The transaction would total $1.6 billion and a fraction of this would go to debt repayment, while the rest would go to expand Iusacell’s network, the newspaper reported.
The size of the deal could far outstrip Iusacell’s total value, which Deutsche Bank estimates at about $950 million.
At the same time, Televisa stands to reap big rewards from having direct access to a wireless network, with the broadcast of video over mobile phones considered a potentially big business.
“(A) wireless network might become the most important distribution platform in the future,” Deutsche Bank analyst Miguel Garcia wrote in a report.
A spokesman for Televisa (TV.N) (TLVACPO.MX) could neither confirm nor deny the newspaper story. Iusacell CEL.MX declined to comment past Tuesday’s statement that talks were underway between the two companies.
A deal between Televisa and Iusacell would introduce a new twist in the clash between three of Mexico’s richest men over control of the country’s communications sector.
Televisa is led by media entrepreneur Emilio Azcarraga and Iusacell is owned by Grupo Salinas, the group headed by Ricardo Salinas which also owns Mexico’s No. 2 broadcaster, TV Azteca TVAZTCACPO.MX.
The two tycoons had a rocky 2010, when Iusacell and affiliated companies tried to block Televisa’s planned purchase of cellphone spectrum in a joint venture with another company, Nextel Mexico.
While Televisa wants into the wireless business, Slim wants to expand into television in Mexico so his companies can offer bundled packages of video, telephone and Internet services, as he does in 16 countries where America Movil operates.
The Mexican government has so far prohibited Slim -- already the biggest provider of pay television services across Latin America -- to expand into media because of concerns about competition.
Televisa shares slipped 2.88 percent to 56.70 pesos. Its New York-traded stock slid 2.63 percent to $24.06.
Reporting by Robin Emmott, Ana Isabel Martinez, Jason lange and Krista Hughes; Editing by Richard Chang