Antioco ups B'buster stake

Sale of stores in Taiwan expected

Shares of video-rental giant Blockbuster Inc. jumped to a 52-week high after Thanksgiving on news that chairman and CEO John Antioco has bought more shares and expectations that the company will sell its 128 stores in Taiwan.

Blockbuster shares closed at a year-high $5.40 on Friday and were the top gainers on The Hollywood Reporter's Showbiz 50 stock index. On Wednesday, Blockbuster shares closed up 16.6% at $5.26, the day's highest price.

The stock's previous year-high had been $5.13.

Other big media and entertainment stocks also hit 52-week highs before the holiday, including Time Warner Inc., which went as high as $20.91, CBS Corp. Class B stock, which reached $30.97 in intraday trading, and DirecTV Group, which established a high of $23.33.

Blockbuster said in a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission late Tuesday that Antioco increased his shareholdings by about 25%. He bought 220,000 shares, bringing his total ownership to 1.1 million shares. Wall Street observers interpreted the move as a signal that Blockbuster is moving in the right direction despite a challenging video-rental market.

On the Taiwan front, DigiTimes, a tech news Web site, reported Wednesday that Webs-TV Digital International Co. Ltd., a Taiwanese Web portal for online television, plans to acquire Blockbuster's business in the country, including the licensed use of the Blockbuster brand name. The site cited industry sources but did not provide financial details of a possible deal.

A Blockbuster spokesman said Wednesday that a deal has been proposed but still has to be considered by regulators. "We continue to maintain ownership of the Blockbuster stores in the territory," he said.

Blockbuster on Wednesday also announced a new promotional arrangement with pizza chain Papa John's International Inc. to boost growth of its online DVD rental service, which is targeting to reach 2 million subscribers by year's end.