Thomson stirs media pot

Reuters considering unspecified bid

It seems Rupert Murdoch isn’t the only one stirring interest in fresh media acquisitions.

On Friday, just days after Murdoch made a bid for the owner of the Wall Street Journal, Reuters appeared close to accepting an unspecified bid from financial news provider and publisher Thomson. The Canadian media concern was looking to buy its larger rival in the business of real-time financial news.

Separately, several reports at first suggested Microsoft was making new overtures for Yahoo, helping to drive up Yahoo’s stock by 10%. But later reports clarified that the two were discussing an ad partnership, not a wholesale tie-up. Move would be aimed at better competing with Google, which has a lion’s share of the search market.

Thomson already has been a new-media success story, having transformed itself from a print entity to a primarily digital information biz over the last decade. If its bid for Reuters is successful, it would create a financial news entity roughly as big as market leader Bloomberg.

But there may be snags to the deal.

Reuters shares rose 27% on the news Friday, giving the company a market cap of nearly $16 billion, which could be more than Thomson is willing to pay. (Company would have to pay at least as much as Reuters was worth for shareholders to accept the bid.)

And the deal must be approved by an independent unit called the Reuters Founder Share Co., which values news integrity over dollar amounts.

Wall Street watchers recently had noted a lull in deal activity among media and entertainment firms, with congloms focused more on launching — and sometimes litigating against — new digital platforms.

But news caps a frenetic week of bidding in which News Corp.’s $5 billion offer for Dow Jones was turned down by the family that runs the company, and the Dolan family appeared successful in their effort to purchase Cablevision for $10.6 billion.

It was unclear if the Thomson bid was sparked by the News Corp. offer for Reuters rival Dow Jones. But the Thomson offer could prompt Bloomberg to enter the race for Dow Jones; earlier, the company had said it wasn’t interested.

Like the Cablevision deal — in which the sale of two regional sports nets to Comcast helped give the Dolans the cash — a separate sale may fuel the Reuters purchase. Thomson has been making plans to sell its book division for as much as $5 billion.

Some experts also note a surplus of cash from new-media revenue that could be used toward acquisitions.

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