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Liberty adds Four

Post house picked up in $250 mil stock pact

HOLLYWOOD — Expanding its holdings in the film and TV post-production arena, John Malone’s Liberty Media Group said Monday that it will acquire post services provider Four Media Co. in a stock-swap deal valued at around $250 million.

As part of the purchase, Englewood, Colo.-based Liberty, a unit of AT&T, will exchange 6.35 million shares of Liberty for Burbank-based Four Media. Terms are expected to close in the first quarter of 2000.

The news sent shares of Four Media skyrocketing 77% on Monday, up $4.69 to close at $10.75.

Four Media has built up itself as one of Hollywood’s major providers of post work for pics and TV shows, also operating as a parent company for subsids Video Symphony, Digital Sound & Picture and f/x shops Digital Magic and POP.

The takeover comes just after Four Media reported a net loss of $2 million for its fourth quarter ended Aug. 1, compared with net income of $1.1 million for the 1998 quarter. Revenues, however, increased 41% to $48 million during the period.

Amassing Emmis

It also comes days after Liberty Media took a 14% stake in radio company Emmis Communications for about $150 million.

“Liberty Media is an exciting company with far-reaching relationships and resources,” said Robert Walston, chairman and CEO of Four Media. “Liberty envisions the development of a services and infrastructure company that will be the catalyst for the creation and delivery of new forms of entertainment and advertising content.”

With Four Media under its belt, Liberty becomes one of Hollywood’s largest providers of post services.

In August, the company acquired controlling stakes in major audio post-production houses Todd-AO Corp. and Soundelux Entertainment Group, also in a stock swap.

Until its deals in August, Liberty had little to no assets in post-production, although it had expressed interest in entering the biz.

As part of the sale of Tele-Communications Inc. to AT&T, Liberty walked away with $5 billion in cash, which it has been using to fuel its recent buying spree.

Free rein

Although Liberty is a subsid of AT&T, it operates as an independent company. The company has a broad range of investments in cable, communication, technology and Internet businesses in the U.S., Europe, South America and Asia, including cable channels BET, Discovery Channel, E!, Encore, QVC and USA Networks.

“We are impressed with the breadth and scale of Four Media’s operations and the quality of their investments in digital infrastructure,” said David Beddow, veep of Liberty, in a statement. “Four Media is an important asset in our services and infrastructure development strategy.”

Shares of Liberty, a tracking stock for AT&T Corp., fell Monday $1.44 to $38.25, a loss of 4%.

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