Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has hired Lehman Brothers to ascertain the value and strategic options for three Eastern European television stations after being approached by multiple suitors, sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Wholly owned News Corp properties in Latvia, Serbia and Bulgaria are under review, one company insider told Reuters. Formal negotiations have yet to begin, the insider said. News Corp and Lehman declined to comment.
The News Corp insider said the properties were not doing poorly, but the company had decided to hire Lehman after the suitors’ approaches. It may decide to do no deals, the insider said. It was not immediately known how many and which companies had approached News Corp.
News Corp, owner of 20th Century Fox movie studios, the Times of London, Sky Italia satellite TV service and the popular MySpace Internet social network, has long viewed Eastern Europe as a vibrant investment target at a time when the US market appears mature. The company in May bought the stake of TV Riga, a Latvian Russian language free-to-air broadcaster, that it did not own. News Corp also owns entertainment channel LNT in the region. News Corp owns broadcaster bTV in Bulgaria and, along with local partners, controls Fox Televizija in Serbia.
Murdoch, whose appetite for purchases is legendary, has also shown interest in investing in Western Europe. News Corp now owns a quarter of German pay-television company Premiere AG. Since Murdoch first expressed interest, Premiere has been the target of takeover speculation. Premiere has said it was unaware of any News Corp bid plans. News Corp shares were up 6 cents at $14.50 in afternoon New York Stock Exchange trade. (Reuters)