Murdoch, Abu Dhabi group eye Financial Times for $1.54b

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - Media mogul Rupert Murdoch and Abu Dhabi's state media group are in talks to acquire the Financial Times Group for about US$1.2 billion (S$1.54 billion), a report said on Friday.

The move would see Mr Murdoch add the respected Financial Times name, as well as 50 per cent of the Economist magazine, to his vast empire, which already includes the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones.

The Edge Review, a regional political and business digital magazine based in Malaysia, said the talks had been progressing for more than a month with the owners: London-based publishing and education giant Pearson.

Citing financial executives familiar with the negotiations, it said a decision could be finalised as early as next week.

As well as the Financial Times and the Economist, the deal also includes several high-end financial information services.

The report said financing details and shareholding structure of the new company that will own the FT group are being worked out.

An executive familiar with the talks was cited by the Edge Review as saying the Abu Dhabi Media Group is expected to control roughly 75 per cent of the venture, with Mr Murdoch picking up the balance.

Mr Murdoch is also negotiating to buy another 25 per cent stake at a later date, it said.

The Edge Review said while the influence of oil and gas money from the Middle East has been focused on sports, the move to media was new and could radically reshape the global newspaper landscape because of Mr Murdoch's involvement.

In the past, Mr Murdoch's conglomerate has made a string of high-profile acquisitions, including the Fox broadcasting giant and Hollywood studio. News of 82-year-old Murdoch's latest business foray comes as his media-entertainment conglomerate News Corp prepares to split after US stock markets close on Friday.

The division of the company, which generates some US$34 billion in revenues worldwide, will create two independent, publicly traded companies, both headed in some form by the Australian-born magnate.

Mr Murdoch has said the move will "unlock value" for shareholders by creating one firm focused on high-flying television and film activities, and another on newspapers and other publishing entities.

Mr Murdoch told shareholders on June 11 that the breakup would "unleash the true potential of our quite unparalleled portfolio of assets, brands and franchises".

The crown jewel has been baptised 21st Century Fox, comprising Fox studios in Hollywood and a global array of cable and broadcasting operations, including National Geographic Channels and Fox Pan American Sports. It has pay-TV services in Europe and Asia, including Sky Deutschland and Tata Sky.

The "new News Corporation" will include newspapers in Britain, Australia and the United States, including The Wall Street Journal and The Times of London.

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