Report: Feds Questioning TCI Involvement with QVC Shopping Channel
NEW YORK (AP) _ Tele-Communications Inc.’s effort to buy home shopping channel operator QVC Inc. in partnership with another leading cable concern is encountering significant antitrust problems, a published report said Thursday.
The Wall Street Journal said attorneys for the Federal Trade Commission have told TCI, the nation’s biggest cable TV system operator, they will seek to block the acquisition and try to force TCI to sell its current stake in QVC.
Their main concern is that TCI already owns a majority of QVC’s main rival, Home Shopping Network Inc., and would exert too much control over the home shopping market if allowed to buy more of QVC, the newspaper said.
QVC, based in West Chester, Pa., and Home Shopping Network dominate the home shopping market.
The story noted the FTC lawyers don’t have the final say and that any antitrust challenge would have to be approved by commission members.
TCI, based in Englewood, Colo., and the cable concern Comcast Corp. agreed last July to offer about $1.4 billion for the QVC stock they don’t already own.
TCI currently owns about 23 percent of QVC stock while Philadelphia-based Comcast owns about 15 percent. Under the buyout proposal, TCI’s stake would rise to about 43 percent while Comcast would own the rest.
The Journal said the FTC attorneys are troubled about the deal because TCI already owns about 79 percent of Home Shopping Network, based in St. Petersburg, Fla.
It said they also object because TCI and Comcast collectibely control access to about 25 percent of the nation’s homes wired for cable TV.
Calls to TCI and Comcast for comment were not immediately returned on Thursday. Bonnie Jansen, a spokeswoman for the FTC, declined comment on the report.
Neal Grabell, general counsel for QVC, said he could not comment on whatever reservations the FTC has expressed about the deal.
But he said QVC feels there should be no antitrust problems because QVC considers its competition far broader than the televised home shopping universe. ``We compete with all forms of retail outlets _ catalogs, malls and the corner store,″ he said.