Malone Sees No News Corp. Deal This Year

His Liberty Media reports a 12% gain in third-quarter revenue.
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Liberty Media

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, the diversified media company whose holdings include Starz and the home shopping channel QVC, posted a narrower second-quarter loss that beat Wall Street expectations.

The Englewood, Colo.-based company has undergone some significant changes recently, spinning off its Discovery Holdings last month and last week announcing the retirement of longtime chief executive Dob Bennett in 2006. Last year, the company doubled its stake in

News Corp.

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to over 17%, leading to speculation that it had designs on the whole company.

Revenue across the company this quarter rose to just over $2 billion from $1.8 billion, a 12% lift. The company lost $107 million or 4 cents per share, vs. $314 million, or 11 cents per share, during the same period a year before.

Speaking on its earnings call this morning, Liberty's chairman and now interim chief executive, John Malone, said no larger transaction between itself and News Corp. had been identified that would satisfy the three major players: the Murdoch family, News Corp. itself and Liberty Media.

Asked whether a near-term resolution is likely, Malone said "it is highly unlikely that you will see any type of transaction announced or completed in 2005 that would materially change the relationship." Malone characterized the current relationship with News Corp. as long-term and very friendly, and endorsed News Corp.'s $3.5 billion share-buyback program while complimenting the company's mix of media assets.

In terms of future spinoffs, Liberty still favors consolidation of various businesses but will watch the performance of Discovery Holding Co. to gauge future actions.

Asked about turbulence created by Lachlan Murdoch's retreat to Australia, Malone was mostly closed-mouthed, saying only that the company is very well managed. Malone did reprise a quip that holds that half of News Corp.'s shareholders are afraid Rupert will die, while the other half are afraid he won't.

In the interim, Liberty was trading up 19 cents to $8.71 on Friday.