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Fox buyback hearing delayed in Delaware

Shareholders file a class-action lawsuit against buyback

NEW YORK — A March 1 hearing regarding News Corp.’s move to buy back outstanding shares in Fox Entertainment has been postponed in Delaware Chancery Court, the conglom said Wednesday. A new date wasn’t set, but the hearing will probably be held in mid-March.

Delay is said to be administrative, as neither side has finished discovery.

Fox shareholders have filed a class-action lawsuit against the buyback and are requesting that the court stop it via a preliminary injunction.

Buyback offer was set to expire at midnight March 4, but News Corp. expects to extend the expiration to a date after the hearing.

News Corp. is essentially in the process of taking publicly traded Fox private by buying back all the outstanding shares of Fox it doesn’t already own — about 18% of the subsid.

But some Fox investors have balked at the price News Corp. is offering.

The Rupert Murdoch company offered to swap Fox shareholders 1.90 shares of News Corp. for every share of Fox they hand over. Move, which will cost News Corp. about $6 billion, values Fox shares at $33.54. That’s a 7.4% premium to Fox shares as of Jan. 7 — which stockholders say is too low.

News Corp. noted then that the offer, which was announced Jan. 10, represented a 16.9% premium over Fox’s six-month average trading price and an 18% premium over its 12-month average stock price.

Company said Wednesday it “believes that these claims (in the suit) are without merit and intends to vigorously contest such an allegation.”

Buyback follows News Corp.’s reincorporation from Australia to the U.S. People close to the company say Murdoch would like to resolve the Fox operation before confronting the issue of John Malone’s Liberty Media, which has acquired a large voting stake in News Corp. Murdoch is said to find that holding untenable and will likely buy the stake back with cash, assets or a combination of both.

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