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Merger rumor triggers King World stock surge

King World Prods. stock surged up 4.6% Thursday on more rumors of a merger with Capital Cities/ABC. The rumors were fueled by a report from CNBC commentator Dan Dorfman.

Neither King World nor CapCities would comment.

This is the second time in two weeks that the firstrun syndication giant’s stock has risen. Last week, the stock jumped when investment firm PaineWebber raised its rating on the stock from neutral to attractive.

Ironically, industry sources speculated that the rating was raised because King World stock — which has suffered while the company tries to re-sign talkshow host Oprah Winfrey to a new contract — had bottomed out at $ 35 and was a good buy.

In his CNBC report, Dorfman said sources on the West Coast told him King World was being pursued. Dorfman told Daily Variety that his sources were not affiliated with either CapCities/ABC or King World.Dorfman also quoted an old report from Oppenheimer & Co. analyst Jessica Reif that makes the case for a merger.

Analysts have often pointed to CapCities/ABC as a likely merger candidate because most of its owned stations carry King World’s “Oprah Winfrey Show, “”Jeopardy!” and “Wheel of Fortune.”

But CapCities/ABC has never said it is interested in King World, and Federal Communications Commission regulations prohibit the company from involvement in the firstrun syndication business for two more years.

It would not be CapCities/ABC’s style, observers point out, to directly challenge FCC rules.

Indeed, ABC insiders say they are not interested in acquiring King World. Those familiar with the inner workings of the company point to the joint venture with Brillstein-Grey Entertainment to produce programming for ABC as indicative of the network’s strategy for the future.

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