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Malone's Liberty may split apart

Sun, 03/14/2004 - 7:00pm
Staff

Daily News (New York)

March 13, 2004 Saturday

SPORTS FINAL EDITION

It looks like wily mogul John Malone's getting ready to slice and dice his Liberty Media empire in an effort to boost its flagging stock.

Investors were buzzing (Friday) with word Malone may spin off his international cable assets as early as Monday, when the company will announce its year-end results.

Liberty's stock rose 42 cents yesterday to $11.67.

Analysts noted Liberty execs spread the word at a recent Bear Stearns media conference that they're bent on trying to become more like a traditional media empire like Time Warner in an effort to lure back investors.

That would be a big switch from today's Liberty - a complex mix of stakes in a number of media and telecom companies including News Corp., and Barry Diller's InterActiveCorp, as well as overseas companies like UnitedGlobalCom, Europe's biggest cable operator.

"Malone wants to cure the discount the market is placing on his assets," said Jon Friedland, partner at investment firm Porter Felleman. "He wants to simplify the structure of the company."

The suggestion yesterday is that Malone may take his interest in UnitedGlobalCom, bundle it with his stakes in cable companies in Japan and South America, and spin off the package to Liberty shareholders.

"It's been something that's been contemplated for awhile," said David Joyce, an analyst at Guzman & Co.

Malone previously took a big step toward becoming a mainstream media company when it bought out the 50% stake in home shopping giant QVC that he didn't already own.

He also recently increased his voting stake in News Corp., one of his largest assets. Some saw the move as Malone positioning Liberty to be sold to the Rupert Murdoch-controlled empire.

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