FNN Sale Imminent As Bid Deadline Nears

Final bids for troubled Financial News Network are due Jan. 18, and industry sources predict a sale within the next 10 days.

But contrary to earlier speculation that FNN’s network operation and stock quote systems would be sold as a package, sources confirm that bidders are vying only for the company’s 35 million subscriber cable network operations.

FNN’s Link, DBC, Shark and IRN stock quote systems will be sold separately. The quote systems were considered a potential stumbling block in any sale of FNN because most of the potential bidders viewed them as “excess baggage” and were interested only in acquiring the network.

Sources familiar with the bidding process say the field of bidders has been narrowed from the initial 20 who received offering memoranda from investment bank Wertheim Schroder & Co. (which has been advising FNN and is handling the sale) in November.

Five or six finalists have been gleaned from those, who, in mid-December, expressed interest in the network and offered a range of values they would be willing to pay.

Speculated suitors for FNN include Paramount, Capital Cities/ABC, Hearst Entertainment, Viacom, Walt Disney Co., Time Warner, General Electric/NBC (which with Cablevision Systems owns rival Consumer News and Business Channel), Dow Jones & Co., Turner Broadcasting, CBS, Tele-Communications Inc. and King World Prods.

Sources close to the bidding say at least two consortiums of bidders are among the finalists.

Those same sources say finalists now are in the last stages of due diligence, much of which has been done at Wertheim’s headquarters in midtown Manhattan.

Errol M. Cook, managing director of Wertheim Schroder, who is said to be handling the sale, declined to comment on the bidding process.

Analysts expect the network to fetch around $150 million. Despite problems with the company, network has retained both subscribers and advertisers (an FNN spokesman says the network has lost only two advertisers during the debacle) and its quarter ended Dec. 31,1990, was its best ever in terms of ad sales.

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