Liberty sights remain fixed on Viv U

Malone still in the hunt, may look for partner

NEW YORK — John Malone reiterated Wednesday that his Liberty Media would like to buy Vivendi Universal’s U.S. showbiz assets.

Speaking after the company’s annual shareholders meeting in Englewood, Colo., Malone said Liberty could team up with a partner in a bid for the assets.

“All bets are open,” Malone said, and “we wouldn’t rule out any bizarre combinations.” He said he is not “explicitly working with Viacom” right now, despite speculation the two companies may join forces. Viacom is mainly interested in Universal’s Sci Fi cable net.

He was firmer in insisting that he’s not planning a move with USA Interactive chairman Barry Diller. “At this time, we are on completely different trajectories,” Malone said.

Bids in the high profile auction of Vivendi Universal Entertainment and Universal Music are due Monday. Vivendi confirmed earlier this week that it’s been in contact with six potential buyers. They are believed to be Liberty, an investment group led by Marvin Davis, another group led by Edgar Bronfman Jr., NBC parent General Electric, Viacom and MGM. While the Lion’s financial backing is unclear, it may be talking with other strategic partners about a joint bid.