Liberty Media – the investment vehicle of US cable entrepreneur John Malone – now owns nearly 20% of News Corporation after exercising a stock option.

Under the agreement, Liberty is buying $500 million (€428.2m; £299.5m) of stock in the Murdoch empire at $21.50 per preferred ordinary American Depository Receipt – a 21% mark-down on NewsCorp's current share price.

The stock deal was agreed back in March, when both companies were pursuing the hand of leading US satellite operator DirecTV. By agreeing to buy the shares, Liberty effectively joined forces with NewsCorp, which subsequently won the bidding war [WAMN: 31-Mar-03].

As a result, NewsCorp will use the $500m to help fund its $6.6 billion purchase of a 34% stake in DirecTV's parent, Hughes Electronics. The deal – currently under regulatory scrutiny – is expected to close by the end of the year.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff