» The hunger in the U.S. and Latin America for Spanish-language or Hispanic-focused TV and movie content is fueling a flurry of activity. A recent $400-million merger between InterMedia Partners and Azteca Acquisition formed Miami-based Hemisphere Media Group, which expects to start operations this month. The new publicly held company includes Spanish-language hemisphere-wide movie channel CineLatino and Puerto Rican assets. The Doral-based English-language network formed in 2012 by Univison Networks and ABC News is investing more than $274 million in news and programming that targets Hispanics. Comcast is pumping resources into its Miami-based Spanish-language network, Telemundo, increasing its annual programming budget by nearly 20% and encouraging it to produce more original shows.
» While residential real estate of all types is having a strong year, rentals are the hottest investment sector. With the apartment vacancy rate at 4.2%, experts say demand for rentals will remain strong for years, buoyed by a desire by young professionals for flexibility and homeownership’s tarnished reputation. Miami-Dade is short on rental properties that attract institutional investors because so many were converted to condos during the boom, and developers are eagerly trying to fill the gap. For instance, Miami-based Crescent Heights plans to build rentals rather than condos on its prime land in Miami Beach’s South Beach, where the median rental rate rose 12% and leasing activity increased 15% during 2012.
» Not all the effects of the real estate bust have been worked out. One Bal Harbour condo/hotel is in Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings by its owner, Elcom Hotel & Spa — despite its prime location overlooking Haulover Inlet, just north of Miami Beach. Elcom, which filed for bankruptcy in January, paid $14.6 million in 2009 to buy the property’s common areas and 51 units out of bankruptcy from WCI Communities. WCI, which developed the project as the Regent Bal Harbour, intended it to be a five-star property but declared bankruptcy shortly after opening the Regent in 2008.
» Among area banks, U.S. Century Bank, the largest undercapitalized bank in the U.S., announced a deal in which local investors — including Jimmy Tate and Sergio Rok — would capitalize it to the tune of $50 million, wiping out its bad loans. The Doral-based bank has been under FDIC enforcement action since June 2011 and took $50.2 million from the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). St. Petersburg-based C1 Bank canceled its planned acquisition of U.S. Century in December.