NEW YORK (AFP) -Microsoft and NBC Universal, a subsidiary of General Electric, discussed but abandoned a possible bid for US media group Dow Jones, the target of an offer from Rupert Murdoch, an NBC Universal spokesman said on Monday.
The spokesman was speaking to the Wall Street Journal newspaper, which reported that the initiative came from General Electric with the idea of blocking a possible move by Murdoch to compete with GE’s financial television channel CNBC.
The NBC Universal spokesman told the Wall Street Journal newspaper, itself the key asset in the Dow Jones group, that the two potential bidders had held exploratory talks that ended slightly more than a week ago.
A spokesman for Microsoft, the US software group, declined to comment when questioned by the newspaper.
The report said that Microsoft and General Electric had discussed the possibility of making a bid for Dow Jones, which also owns the Dow Jones financial news agency, to match an offer by Rupert Murdoch’s News. Corp of 5.0 billion dollars on a basis of 60 dollars per Dow Jones share.
The newspaper said that GE had opened the talks because it was concerned that Murdoch wanted control of the Dow Jones assets to help him launch a financial news television channel to compete with the leading broadcaster in the field CNBC, a GE subsidiary.
Dow Jones and the Wall Street Journal provide news to CNBC under an exclusive agreement which is set to run until 2012.
The report said that GE might try to form an alliance with with another group to make a counter bid but that the failure of the talks with Microsoft showed that finding an partner would be difficult.
NBC Universal was formed of a merger of NBC, the television subsiary of General Electric, and the assets in the United States owned by French group Vivendi Universal.
Those assets were mainly Universal studios and related theme parks.
The Bancroft family, which owns Dow Jones and was initially hostile to the approach from Murdoch, has now decided to consider it despite hostility from journalists in the group who are concerned that their editorial independence might suffer.
A few business magnates expressed interest in Dow Jones last week but so far no rival to Murdoch has emerged.