TCI, Home Shopping Net talk int’l venture

It may be a slow week on Wall Street, but Tele-Communications Inc. isn’t drifting into the holiday lull. The cable mammoth said Tuesday it plans to launch an international TV shopping business with Home Shopping Network Inc.

The prospective partners have signed a letter of intent to form Home Shopping Network Intl. Michael McMullen, president of HSN’s international division, will helm the new project.

While no other details were disclosed, the move seems to show that TCI chief John Malone is determined to ride the interactive highway with or without onetime partner Barry Diller. Diller’s home-shopper, QVC Network, recently abandoned its own merger ambitions with HSN.

Shares in both TCI and HSNshowed little reaction to the news. TCI shares closed down almost 38 cents at $ 29.50 and HSN stock finished the session up about 13 cents at $ 15.

A HSN spokeswoman said TCI’s pending merger with Bell Atlantic will not affectthe deal. She declined to provide a time frame for the venture, saying only: “We’re not going to wait too long. We’re eager to get started.”

Since the partners would not specify which geographic regions they intend to target, analysts found it difficult to project the venture’s chance of success.

HSN rival QVC Network recently established operations in the United Kingdom and Mexico.

While HSN Intl. could draw an audience in Europe and other Westernized regions, “I just can’t imagine half of Asia running out and dialing 1-900-Elvis, ” one pundit commented.

Still, the drive to upgrade telecom services worldwide means more programming product will be needed, said analyst Michael Kupinski of A.G. Edwards.

“The next wave would be for content providers” to go overseas, he said. HSN has “been very successful in the U.S., so it’s not surprising that they would move internationally.”

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