QVC says rival bid is invalid

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QVC NETWORK accused Viacom yesterday, its rival in the takeover battle for Paramount Communications, of violating bidding procedures and said its own bid was still superior to Viacom's fresh offer, writes Patrick Hosking.

The media group Viacom stunned Wall Street on Friday night by announcing plans for a full merger with its ally Blockbuster Entertainment, the video rental chain. Together, they would lift the cash element of the bid.

QVC, the cable television group that has a dollars 9.8bn ( pounds 6.6bn) offer on the table, said the new Viacom offer violated procedures agreed by all parties and should not be the trigger for a new round of bidding. It will make an announcement before the stock market opens on Monday about extending the deadline for its Paramount offer.

Analysts said the two bids were now very close. The merged Viacom Blockbuster would raise the cash portion of its bid from dollars 5.1bn to dollars 6.5bn. Viacom's all-share offer for Blockbuster values it at dollars 8.4bn.

Analysts also said that Blockbuster's library of motion pictures, combined with Paramount's movie, entertainment and sports properties, would give Viacom a huge wealth of material for leading the way in interactive TV.

One analyst said: 'On the surface, the concept of merging Viacom and Blockbuster certainly makes a lot of sense.'