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Liberty Media Open to Deal with AOL

By Reuters  |  Posted 08-12-2008 Print

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John Malone signals that Liberty Media might be interested in trading its stake in Time Warner for AOL's dial-up Net business.

Liberty Media would be open to discussing a deal to swap its stake in Time Warner for the media conglomerate's AOL dial-up Internet business, Liberty Chairman John Malone said on Monday.

Although the opportunity for such discussions has yet to arise, Malone said Liberty Capital, which holds passive stakes in companies including Time Warner and Sprint Nextel, would prefer owning cash-generating operating companies.

"Clearly an exit from the Time Warner equity state into a cash-generating asset would be attractive, but at the current time, none have been proposed that we could take action on," Malone said on a conference call on quarterly results.

"But we would continue to try and maintain the relationship with Jeff and the Time Warner folks in the event that such a transaction would present itself," he said, referring to Time Warner Chief Executive Jeffrey Bewkes.

Malone, who has amassed stakes in a broad portfolio of companies, earlier negotiated the swap of Liberty's holding in News Corp to gain control of U.S. satellite television provider DirecTV Group.

As of May 2007, Liberty held 103 million shares, or about 2.8 percent, of Time Warner after it swapped 68.5 million shares for Time Warner's ownership of the Atlanta Braves Major League Baseball team and Time's Leisure Arts group.

"They would come talk to us given our ability to tax efficient transaction for both parties, we have good dialogue with them," Liberty Media Chief Executive Greg Maffei said on the call.

Malone separately said he was puzzled over the current round of speculation over a possible merger of DirecTV with satellite TV peer Dish Network.

While Liberty Media executives have said in the past that such a merger could be beneficial, Malone said on Monday a deal would be "problematic" from a regulatory perspective.

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