SYDNEY, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. Ltd. (NWS.AX: Quote, Profile, Research) (NWS_w: Quote, Profile, Research) moved to ward off any hostile bid from U.S. cable company Liberty Media Corp. (L.N: Quote, Profile, Research) with a plan to issue stock options to dilute the stake of any predator.
John Malone's Liberty began a transaction last week that could increase its voting stake in News Corp. to about 17 percent from 9 percent, raising speculation it could launch a takeover bid for Murdoch's media empire.
Under a defence announced on Monday, News Corp. said it would give its shareholders the right to buy one News Corp. share at half price for each share they own, if any party buys a 15 percent stake in the company. Shareholders would be able to buy up to $80 of half-price shares.
The strategy would exclude the purchaser of the 15 percent stake, providing a "poison pill" defence against anyone plotting to take control of News Corp. from 73-year-old Murdoch and his heirs apparent, sons Lachlan and James.
"It means it's very much more expensive for Mr. Malone to maintain his position or extend his position in the company and he has to make the judgment as to whether it's worth it or not," said Michael O'Sullivan, president of the Australian Council of Superannuation Investors, which advises pension funds on corporate governance issues.
The existing holdings of Malone, a long-time ally of Murdoch, would not trigger the rights plan, but additional shareholdings would.
Interview with Malone in 2002