Viacom and QVC submit new offers for Paramount

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NEW YORK - Both rivals for control of Paramount Communications submitted new offers ahead of yesterday's bidding deadline, but it appears that Viacom and QVC Network may be asked yet again for their 'best, final offers' by the studio's directors, writes Larry Black.

Paramount confirmed it had received new proposals from both parties, but would not put a value on either. Its board will meet today to evaluate the bids, but both parties have until 7 January to increase the value of their tender offers, or until one of them attracts 51 per cent of Paramount's shares.

The complex new procedure was established by Paramount's directors after the original merger deal with Viacom was criticised by a Delaware business court. QVC said last week it was still not satisfied with the rules, but Paramount maintains they are fair. QVC's last tender offer, equal to dollars 89 a share - about dollars 10bn at yesterday's close - was worth dollars 500m more than Viacom's friendly bid, although over the weekend both boards approved higher offers. Paramount shares closed yesterday up dollars 5 8 at dollars 617 8 .

On Sunday, Viacom took the unusual step of issuing a letter to shareholders and bidding partners, explaining controversial trading by Sumner Redstone, the chairman.

Mr Redstone and a company he controls made extensive purchases of Viacom stock shortly before it signed its original merger deal with Paramount, prompting accusations that the share portion of Viacom's offer had been artificially inflated. The US Securities and Exchange Commission has been investigating the trades, which Mr Redstone insists were legal and fully disclosed.