Viacom eyeing a buy

Dereg means opportunities, Karmazin sez

Viacom, fresh off a $1.2 billion cable deal, is likely to wield its wallet once again come June as the FCC relaxes media ownership rules.

“That will create some opportunities for Viacom,” chief operating Mel Karmazin told shareholders at the conglom’s annual meeting in Gotham Wednesday. Company will mostly likely be on the prowl for stations.

It owns 39 TV stations covering nearly 40% of the nation, including duopolies in eight markets.

But Karmazin and chairman-CEO Sumner Redstone called Viacom stock “terribly underpriced” and said there’s no way they’d use it for acquisitions. They said Viacom’s got enough cash to do the deal it wants.

Weathering the once-yearly string of abuse from shareholders over fat paychecks, two classes of stock and no dividends, the execs waxed enthusiastic over high-margin cable properties and CBS’ apparent victory in the May sweeps.

“It’s the first time in 15 years CBS has won all the sweeps” in one year, Karmazin said.

As for Paramount, “We absolutely love this business,” he added.

The execs seemed cordial. A drawn-out contract dispute had left Karmazin’s future at the company in limbo for months before they reached an agreement early this year.

“I control the vote of the company. If I did not want Mel to be here, he would not be here. I value Mel, and I think we’ll lead this company to heights we haven’t seen,” Redstone said.

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