UPDATE 1-Liberty Media announces new spin-off of cable assets

Thu May 8, 2014 12:33pm EDT

(Adds CEO's remarks from conference call, share price)

By Liana B. Baker

May 8 (Reuters) - Liberty Media Corp is spinning off its cable assets, including a stake in Charter Communications Inc, into a new publicly traded company called Liberty Broadband, the media holding company said on Thursday.

"We believe a separate Liberty Broadband will offer investors greater choice and transparency, and is well-timed with Charter's agreements with Comcast, which will result in Charter owning or serving over eight million video customers," Liberty Media Chief Executive Officer Greg Maffei said.

Maffei's boss, Liberty Media Chairman John Malone, is famous for complicated stock structures designed to be tax-efficient.

The announcement came amid more clarity on Charter's expansion plans.

In a call with analysts to discuss Liberty Media's first-quarter results, Maffei said Charter is a "natural acquirer of pretty much any cable asset that gets sold." A separate Liberty Broadband could help raise capital for Charter, he added.

On April 28, Charter said it would pay Comcast $7.3 billion for 1.4 million cable subscribers and trade about 1.6 million subscribers in different parts of the country in a deal that depends on regulatory approval of Comcast's takeover of Time Warner Cable. Charter will also own one-third of a new cable company to be spun off from Comcast.

Maffei said the spin-off would be completed by the end of the year. It replaces a previous plan announced in March to split up the cable media assets into new companies, Liberty Broadband Group and Liberty Media Group.

The plan announced on Thursday will be a hard spin-off of Liberty Broadband, similar to how Liberty spun off television and movie channel Starz last year.

Liberty Broadband will house Liberty's stake in Charter Communications, which was worth $3.31 billion as of March 31, as well as investments in Time Warner Cable and the small location technology company True Position Technologies Inc.

Liberty Media will continue to hold stakes in Sirius XM and Live National Entertainment and remain the owner of the Atlanta Braves baseball team.

Liberty Media announced on Thursday that its first-quarter operating income before depreciation and amortization rose 12 percent to $294 million, compared to $262 million a year ago.

Its shares were up almost 1 percent at $131.40 in early afternoon trade. (Reporting by Liana B. Baker; Editing by Paul Simao)

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