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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 November, 2004, 01:00 GMT
Liberty remains News Corp 'ally'
John Malone
John Malone's Liberty Media says its intentions are friendly
Liberty Media says it has no "hostile intentions" towards News Corporation despite looking to double its stake in Rupert Murdoch's company.

Liberty fuelled speculation about its intentions last week when it moved to increase its holding in News Corp stock offering voting rights from 9% to 17%.

News Corp quickly responded by outlining a 'poison pill' strategy to protect it from a potential takeover.

Liberty said on Tuesday that it remained an "ally" of News Corp.

First step?

Liberty, headed by John Malone, has been a long-time supporter of Mr Murdoch and his family.

However, Liberty's planned share purchase was viewed in some quarters as a first step towards a potential takeover bid or a merger of the two businesses.

News Corp reacted by outlining plans to enable existing shareholders to increase their holdings if anyone else bought more than 15% of the company.

We view ourselves as allies of News Corp and the Murdoch family
Robert Bennett, Liberty Media

The move was interpreted as a signal that Mr Murdoch and his family -who own a 29.5% stake in the business -would fight any attempts to wrest control of the company.

"There has been a lot of speculation surrounding this transaction but I would like to make it very clear that we view ourselves as allies of News Corp and the Murdoch family," Liberty chief executive Robert Bennett said.

Market opportunity

Mr Bennett said the thinking behind the share purchase was to exploit the expected difference in price between voting and non-voting shares in News Corp when the company reincorporates in the US.

The company is moving its primary stock market listing from Australia to the US in an effort to attract more interest from large US financial institutions.

"We are a large, happy, friendly shareholder," Mr Bennett added.

"We are simply taking an advantage of an opportunity we saw in the market."

Financial analysts suggested Liberty's move was an attempt by Mr Malone to gain an advantage in future deals with Mr Murdoch.

"It is trying to position Liberty for the long term," Tom Wolzien, an analyst with Sanford Bernstein, told Reuters.

"The more of News Corp you get, the more it is in News Corp's interest to take you out."

Liberty, which owns the home shopping network QVC and a stake in Discovery Communications, reported a 89% rise in third quarter profits to $372m.

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