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News Briefs II

Russia to Bolster Finances by Borrowing From Foreign Sources

The Washington Post

Russia, scrambling to shore up its weak public finances and restore investor confidence, announced plans Thursday to nearly double planned borrowing on global credit markets, officials hinted at a sale of some state shares in natural gas monopoly Gazprom, one of Russia's corporate crown jewels.

It also was disclosed that Russia had secretly borrowed $200 million in a ruble-denominated loan from Western commercial banks last Thursday. The Financial Times of London, which reported the deal, said the Russian government had agreed to protect the lenders from the risk of a devaluation by linking the loan to the ruble currency exchange rate.

The government has taken a few such loans in the past, but apparently this was the first time it offered protection against devaluation. President Boris Yeltsin repeatedly has insisted that Russia does not intend to devalue the ruble.

In another development, the Russian stock market continued to slide in the wake of vague statements from international finance officials meeting in Paris that, if needed, the International Monetary Fund would put together a new package for Russia. The markets had been looking for a firm signal that a Russia rescue loan was in the works.

The Russian Trading System's main index closed down 3.3 percent Thursday at 178.1.

Murdoch is Selling TV Guide For $2 Billion


Ten years after Rupert Murdoch bought TV Guide in a package that cost a staggering $3 billion, the media titan announced Thursday that he will sell the publication to the operator of cable TV's Prevue channel for $2 billion in cash and stock.

The transaction will allow the buyer, United Video Satellite Group Inc., which is part of cable giant Tele-Communications Inc., to parlay the TV Guide brand name and the magazine's voluminous TV listings into an enhancement of the Prevue program-guide channel and its interactive listings services. Prevue, which features scrolling TV listings and pay-per-view ads, now reaches 50 million households.

The deal will give Murdoch's News Corp. an ownership stake in United Video and allow him to continue focusing greater attention on his electronic media and entertainment ventures.

The agreement also lets Murdoch shed a magazine with limited growth potential and growing competition from newspapers, which publish their own TV listings. TV Guide, whose weekly circulation of 13.1 million copies is down from 17 million when Murdoch bought it, had estimated advertising revenue last year of $469 million.

"Was this the greatest investment for Murdoch from point A to point B? No," said John S. Reidy, a media analyst with Smith Barney, referring to the $2 billion price. "But he's drawn cash flow out of this for 10 years in the $150 million range" a year.