Inside Move: Liberty still pecking away at bird deal

DirecTV stake is still in play

John Malone’s Liberty Media said Monday it is still in talks with News Corp. on swapping about $10 billion in shares of the giant media conglom in exchange for Rupert Murdoch’s stake in DirecTV.

Liberty CEO Greg Maffei dismissed Wall Street fears the deal could be too onerous, possibly forcing Liberty to assume full control of DirecTV.

“There seems to be at least one conjecture that if we did a swap of our (News Corp.) stock for DirecTV that we might be under some obligation to move to hard control of DirecTV,” Maffei said during a conference call. “This is not so.”

Analysts have anticipated a resolution by year’s end to the contentious negotiations that have been dragging on for years and have targeted diverse assets within the News Corp. empire, including TV stations and the National Geographic Channel. Murdoch badly wants to get Malone’s voting stock in News Corp. back inhouse but has declared he won’t do any deal he doesn’t like.

Meanwhile, News Corp. extended a so-called poison pill anti-takeover provision to keep Malone from building up an additional interest.

Liberty also announced financial results for Liberty Interactive, where QVC revenue rose 12% to $1.65 billion for the third quarter. Operating income at the home shopping net grew to $257 million from $179 million.

Liberty’s board has approved the buyback of an additional $1 billion in Liberty Interactive stock.

At Liberty Capital, Starz Entertainment saw revenue rise 3% to $253 million on higher subscriptions. Operating income grew by $5 million to $40 million. Liberty Capital is also home to newly acquired IDT Entertainment.

Liberty has split itself into several tracking stocks to separate and highlight its different businesses.

On a consolidated basis, Liberty Media’s income from continuing operations and before special items swung to a profit of $75 million from a loss of $315 million a year earlier.

Liberty Media is also in talks to unload its interest in Time Warner as it simplifies its structure — moving from a holding company to a number of operating companies.

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