Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Preparing for Sale

7:03 AM PST 01/14/2011 by Mimi Turner

Her $1 billion-plus production company could be acquired by her father Rupert's News Corp.

LONDON – Could Elisabeth Murdoch be about to sell her $1 billion-plus production company Shine Group to her dad?

Speculation is mounting that a deal with News Corp. could be on the cards as Shine said Friday that it was looking at options "for the next stage of growth" and confirmed it had appointed JP Morgan to advise on strategic opportunities.

Shine, which Elisabeth Murdoch set up 10 years ago, has grown through acquisition to be one of the U.K.'s biggest production giants and has a global network of divisions in France, Germany, Australia and the U.S.

It owns Reveille, Life on Mars creator Kudos and has sold its Masterchef cooking format show around the world. A deal could value it at between £600 million ($951.8 million) and £800 million ($1.27 billion).

Shine is understood to be talking to a number of parties and cited "consolidation in the international production sector" as the reason it was exploring its strategic options.

By that logic, however, the likes of Time Warner's Warner Bros, Endemol and NBC Universal would also be logical possible partners.

Warner Bros recently acquired British super indie Shed Productions, while in recent years NBC Universal and Endemol have added significant production assets to their portfolios.

Sony Pictures Television International, which currently has a 20% stake in Shine, could also be another possible partner.

A deal with News Corp. would mean that it was entirely within the control of the Murdoch family and would boost News Corp's largely non-existent international TV production business.

But it could be politically sensitive: Rupert Murdoch is currently tussling with regulators here over his bid to acquire total control of Britain's biggest pay TV operator BSkyB.

A deal to also buy the one of the biggest production entities -- although not necessarily an issue on antitrust grounds -- could still be commercially and politically controversial.

Shine declined comment on any of the speculation beyond confirming it had hired advisors.

"Whilst we would not comment on speculation, Shine Group can confirm that given the current consolidation within the international production sector, the company has appointed JP Morgan to advise it on its strategic options and growth opportunities," a spokesman said.

"Whilst this may or may not result in a transaction, until any conclusions are reached there will be no further comment."

"We don't comment on speculation," a News Corp. spokesman in New York said.

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