Liberty may get Time Warner assets
Paper says Liberty Media is in talks to trade its Time Warner shares for holdings like the Atlanta Braves.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) - Time Warner and Liberty Media are reportedly in talks that could lead to Liberty swapping its shares in the media conglomerate for some of its operating assets, including the Atlanta Braves baseball team.
The Wall Street Journal reports that the talks between the two companies could also lead to Liberty buying the 50 percent stake Time Warner (Research) owns in Court TV cable channel. Liberty (Research) already owns the other half.
Time Warner, whose assets include CNNMoney.com, announced it was putting the Braves and the regional network which carries many of the team's games, Turner South, up for sale. But last month it sold Turner South to Fox Cable Networks, a unit of News Corp. (Research), without parting with the Braves.
Liberty Media owns about a four percent stake in Time Warner, according to the Journal, which would be worth about $3.1 billion. But Liberty is currently barred from converting its non-voting Time Warner equity stake into voting shares until February 2007. It has filed a request with the Federal Trade Commission to overturn that restriction.
The Braves are worth about $382 million by a 2005 estimate from Forbes magazine, a leading tracker of sports franchise values, but baseball teams have recently been selling at a premium to such estimates. The Kansas City Royals, a team with neither the revenue base nor on-field success of the Braves, recently sold for about $270 million, well above Forbes' estimate of $187 million.
Liberty CEO Greg Maffei confirmed that the company would like to acquire Time Warner assets during a conference call with investors Wednesday, the Journal reported, although he did not identify the specific assets. The call followed the company's release of a wider than expected quarterly loss.
Also during the call Wednesday Meffei told investors Liberty would likely hold on to its nearly 19 percent stake in News Corp., the Journal reported, because it views it as more strategic than the Time Warner investment.
"We are very impressed with the things that News has done, repositioning itself in the Internet space," the Journal reports him as saying. "Therefore it's an asset that we feel very comfortable holding."
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