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TORONTO — The acrimonious court battle here over Western Intl. Communications has produced an eye-opener: NBC had been kicking the tires of the Canadian broadcaster.

WIC president John Lacey confirmed to reporters outside the courtroom that NBC had been in negotiations with WIC as recently as last month, working to put together a share purchase deal that would not violate Canuck foreign ownership restrictions.

NBC is reported to have walked away because the time frame in which it would have had to come up with a firm offer to compete with CanWest Global Communications Corp.’s earlier bid was too tight.

CanWest and Shaw Communications– both of whom are major shareholders of WIC — have also both launched $30.24-per-share offers that expire Tuesday night. An NBC spokesperson in New York would not comment.