QVC drops shopping channel merger: New strategy in battle to take over Paramount

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QVC Network, the cable television retail channel bidding for control of Paramount Communications, changed strategy yesterday, dropping a long-planned merger with a rival network and shuffling its partners in the Paramount bid.

QVC and Home Shopping Network announced they had abandoned their dollars 1bn all-share merger, freeing QVC to concentrate its resources on the battle for Paramount. Two weeks ago, its dollars 10bn hostile bid for the media giant was matched by a friendly suitor, the Viacom cable group.

The two shopping networks said the decision to drop the merger was amicable and was the result of 'timing and other uncertainties created by the QVC bid for Paramount'.

Separately, reports continued to circulate that QVC wants to sever ties with its principal backer, Liberty Media, a cable-programmer controlled by executives of the giant Tele-Communications Inc. QVC's links with the companies have raised the possibility that its Paramount bid might be blocked because of regulatory concerns, particularly in the wake of TCI's own announcement last month that it is to be taken over by Bell Atlantic. Liberty currently owns 22 per cent of QVC.

Liberty's connection with Bell Atlantic has also made it difficult for QVC to accept additional backing from another regional telephone company anxious to participate in the bid, BellSouth. Published reports - denied by the parties involved - suggested that BellSouth had agreed to buy Liberty's stake in QVC and invested an additional dollars 1bn in the Paramount bid.