News Corp. Gains on BSkyB Spinoff Talk

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- News Corporation ( NWSA) shares are gaining today on speculation that in order to ease regulatory concerns, the media company will consider separating Sky News from British Sky Broadcasting, or BSkyB, if its buyout bid for the U.K.-based pay TV operator is approved.

Shares are up 4.5% to above $15.30. More than 15.4 million share have traded hands today compared with the stock's 3-month average daily volume of 12.1 million.

News Corp. currently holds a 39% stake in BSkyB, and is looking to buy the remaining 61% for 7.8 billion pounds, or approximately $12.4 billion.

The potential deal is facing strong opposition and several regulatory hurdles, as many argue that News Corp. would gain too much control of the British media through the acquisition.

The bid received regulatory approval from the European Union in December, but was waiting on the U.K. Office of Communication to finalize its review, which recommended that the bid be reviewed by the Competition Commission.

The Office of Communications then handed over the investigation to the U.K. government's department for culture, media and sports.

Now reports have surfaced that News Corp. might spin Sky News out of BSkyB to avoid a longer regulatory review of its buyout plan.

U.K. culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to announce a final decision on the proposed buyout by the end of the month.

Collins Stewart research analyst Thomas Eagan said that investors may also be bullish on the return of Fox Network's American Idol. While the show's tenth season premiere saw a 13% decline in viewership from last season's opener, Eagan noted that it still continues to beat out other networks in ratings.

Total average viewership for Wednesday's premiere came in at 26.1 million, followed by 22.9 million viewers on Thursday. The next highest rated show sharing the 8 p.m. slot with Idol on Thursday was The Big Bang Theory on CBS ( CBS), which drew 13.6 million viewers.

-- Written by Theresa McCabe in Boston.

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