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Liberty-News Corp. Swap Closes Early

12/20/2004 8:51 AM Eastern

Liberty Media Corp. said it has agreed with Merrill Lynch International on the early termination of a return-swap stock deal that would increase its voting stake in News Corp. to about 18%.

In November, Liberty said it had agreed to swap about 84.7 million nonvoting shares of News Corp. class-A common stock with Merrill in exchange for voting shares in News Corp. with an equal value. At the time, Liberty said the additional News Corp. voting shares would push its total voting stake in News Corp. to about 17%. That deal was scheduled to close in April.

In a press release Monday, Liberty said it would deliver 86.9 million shares of News Corp. class-A common stock to Merrill in exchange for 92 million class-B voting shares in the media giant.The 92 million shares of News Corp. class-B common stock consist of 84.7 million shares underlying the previously announced total-return swap, plus an additional 7.3 million shares underlying another total-return swap with Merrill.

The transaction is expected to close no later than mid-January.

Liberty spokesman Mike Erickson said the early termination of the deal was spurred by Liberty receiving the necessary regulatory approvals from the U.S. and Australian governments.

Liberty shares closed at $10.68 each Monday, down 12 cents per share.

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