AMC Networks to buy Chellomedia from Liberty Global

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AMC Networks said it would buy Chellomedia, the international content unit of John Malone's Liberty Global, for about $1.04 billion, giving it greater control over the global distribution of its programs.

Liberty Global said the deal would help it simplify its business and allow it to focus on its core market.

Malone, known as the "King of Cable," jumped back into the U.S. cable market earlier this year by buying a 28 percent stake in Charter Communications. Until then, he had been on a decade-long acquisition spree in Europe.

Liberty Global, the largest cable operator in Europe, was recently outmaneuvered by Vodafone in competing bids for German operator Kabel Deutschland.

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"In our view, the (Chellomedia) disposal improves Liberty's liquidity to potentially help fund acquisitions," J.P. Morgan Cazenove analyst Carl Murdock-Smith said in a research note.

AMC Networks, home to hit shows such as "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," and "The Walking Dead," said the businesses being bought include Chello Central Europe, Chello Latin America and Chello Zone.

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The network will also acquire Chellomedia's stakes in joint ventures with CBS International, A E Networks, Zon Optimus and other partners.

AMC Networks has been spending money to develop content to and expand programming on AMC and its other channels, which include Sundance and IFC.

Analysts have predicted a wave of consolidation in the U.S. cable industry, which faces rising programming costs as well as technology threats from upstarts such as Netflix.

Chellomedia's network channels are distributed to 390 million households in 138 countries, AMC Networks said.

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Liberty Global will retain its Dutch premium channel business, which consists of its Film1 and Sport1 channels.

Morgan Stanley advised Liberty Global on the deal, which is expected to close in the first quarter of 2014. Guggenheim Securities was the adviser for AMC.

By Reuters