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John Malone's Liberty Interactive Keeps Options Open on HSN

Saying that the company, which owns competitor QVC, could remain a big shareholder or acquire control, he told investors that "we're happy either way."

NEW YORK - Liberty Media chairman John Malone is keeping his options open on his Liberty Interactive's future plans for home shopping network HSN.

Liberty Interactive, the home of home shopping leader QVC, recently agreed to increase its stake in HSN to 34 percent, refueling long-running speculation that it could eye full control.

Asked at an investor day here Thursday about HSN, Malone told a Wall Street crowd that as an investor he is "happy with the direction" of HSN, saying the firm has become "substantially more shareholder friendly" and is operationally "building value." Overall, he called himself a "delighted shareholder" who is looking forward to enjoying "very nice returns."

Still, LI could choose to "pay a substantial premium and get operating synergies," Malone said. "We're happy either way."

Price would be one key hurdle for a takeover of HSN, according to Malone. Since LI is seen as the ultimate acquiror, HSN's stock price will always be slightly above what the company will be willing to pay, he quipped.

Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei signaled LI will take its time with any possible final HSN decisions "A year from now we'll see where we stand," he said.

He also highlighted another potential deal hurdle, saying that known synergies between QVC and HSN are limited. Counter programming and other unknown possible benefits are hard to gauge, Maffei added.

In 2012, he said QVC will look to reignite growth in the U.S. and consider new international markets, such as France and China where it would look for a partner.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai