Paramount backs new Viacom offer

NEW YORK - The battle for control of Paramount Communications took another turn yesterday when directors of the entertainment conglomerate recommended that shareholders reject a hostile dollars 10bn bid by QVC Network in favour of a new higher offer from Viacom, writes Larry Black.

Viacom, whose friendly offer for Paramount lost ground all last week, finally increased its bid on Saturday, adding dollars 5 in cash to its previous package, whose value had slipped below dollars 79 a share. At yesterday's share prices, Viacom's bid is worth about dollars 10.4bn

The moves sent its rival, QVC - already off balance because of new questions from US regulators - scrambling to find a way to increase its own bid. In an attempt both to raise more cash and allay anti-trust concerns, QVC's chairman Barry Diller has broached the possibility of replacing one of its backers, Liberty Media, with a new partner, BellSouth, a rich regional telephone company with no current interests in the cable or entertainment industry.

QVC, a cable television shopping network, is 22 per cent owned by Liberty Media, which is in turn owned by Tele- Communications Inc, America's largest cable systems operator. Some regulators have voiced concern about vertical integration of the US cable industry should QVC take control of Paramount.