Rupert finds room to move in Telepiu deal

Media mogul could dominate pay TV market in Italy

News Corp. chief Rupert Murdoch may capitalize on the upheaval in Vivendi Universal’s executive suite by securing a discount on his planned acquisition of the French conglom’s Italian pay TV division Telepiu.

Murdoch, who inked a deal last month to acquire Telepiu for $1.5 billion, could dominate the pay TV market in Italy by combining Telepiu with Stream, a rival network run jointly by News Corp. and Telecom Italia.

The media mogul may have some more room to maneuver on the price, however, as Vivendi moves to cut its massive debt load and unload noncore assets following the sacking last week of president and chief executive, Jean-Marie Messier. Industry watchers expect Viv U topper-elect Jean-Rene Fourtou to unwind many of Messier’s aggressive investments.

Murdoch had planned to find other investors to take over a 50% stake in Telepiu, with News Corp. keeping the other half, but would-be financiers have been loath to step up to the plate at the current price.

Murdoch is reportedly looking to cut his offer by at least a third, to roughly $950 million, and to cut down on the cash component.

News Corp. shares have tumbled nearly 30% over the past month, as investors wary of accounting troubles unloaded companies with complex business models.

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