Harcourt Sets $200 Mil Buyback

Publishing and retailing conglomerate Harcourt General, often speculated as a buyer of a TV network, has said it will spend about $200 million buying back its own stock.

Harcourt spun off its General Cinema theater circuit into a separate company, GC Cos., in December 1993. HG said March 10 it will accept offers from shareholders for up to 5 million shares at a price between $36 and $41.50 a share. The news sent Harcourt’s stock price up 1 1/4 to 39.

Harcourt has $859 million in cash available, so the tender will not deplete too much of its cash reserves. But Harcourt’s announcement suggests the company is unlikely to be involved in a purchase of a broadcast web anytime soon.

Harcourt has been mentioned in recent months as a possible buyer of NBC and CBS. It has never commented specifically on its interest in nets but Peter Farwell, a spokesman for Harcourt, confirmed Harcourt had “looked at lots of things in the publishing field and in the broad media area.”

“We have been looking at almost anything that has been available. Investment banks know that we have the cash and the desire to make an acquisition,” Farwell said.

In a statement, Harcourt CEO Robert Tarr said, “Major acquisitions have not been available at prices we believe would result in attractive returns for our stockholders.”

Farwell said even after the tender, Harcourt will have plenty of money available for an acquisition, with $600 million in cash and plenty of credit available.

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