Maxwell Says He's Still Interested in New York Post


British media tycoon Robert Maxwell said Friday he remains interested in various acquisitions including the New York Post newspaper and French financial daily Les Echos, and is keeping a watchful eye on several potential takeover situations in the United States.

Maxwell spoke at a news conference ahead of flotation of his Maxwell Communication Corporation Plc on the Paris bourse.

He said he had talked with fellow publisher Rupert Murdoch about acquiring the New York Post, if Murdoch had to divest the company by March 6 as a result of U.S. legislation preventing ownership of television and press interests in the same city.

Maxwell said he had discussed a purchase price for the New York Post with Murdoch but declined to give details.

He also said he was ready to buy Les Echos from its current French owner, Jacqueline Beytout, for the same price of $160 million as she has agreed with British media-based group Pearson PLC, if the French government should prevent that sale because of concern about non-European ownership, conflicting with French press laws.

Maxwell recently acquired the French domestic news agency Agence Centrale de Presse (ACP) and has a stake in the TF1 television station privatized last June.

Maxwell said he was also watching developments concerning the U.S. group Bell & Howell Co. but had not been prepared to continue a takeover tussle with BHW Acquisition Corp. once the bidding rose to $64 per share.

Maxwell withdrew from the bidding in December, and Bell & Howell has called a shareholders' meeting for April 13 to vote on the proposed merger with BHW, consisting of the Texas-based Robert M. Bass Group Inc and parts of Bell & Howell management.

"We're on the sidelines. We are ready to buy this company but we might end up being arbitragers on the shares," Maxwell said.

He said takeovers by his group were made out of cash flow generated by equity funding rather than debt, and MCC's equity capital has risen by 411% in three years.

Maxwell said MCC would take in a significant amount of funds when it floats Mirror Group Newspapers on the London stock market--"Mirror Group is certainly going to be introduced on the stock exchange," he said, but gave no timetable.

Maxwell also said he was maintaining an interest in U.S. publisher Harcourt Brace Jovanovich Inc.

Meanwhile, Rupert Murdoch is considering launching a satellite television news channel for Europe.

The channel would compete with the U.S. Cable News Network's service to the continent, a spokesman said in London on Friday.

The spokesman for Murdoch's general entertainment satellite channel, Sky Channel Satellite Television PLC, said a study was being carried out on the feasibility of the project.

He said the new service might be put on Astra, a 16-channel satellite due to be launched later this year.

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