August 12, 2005 12:38 PM PDT

News Corp. in talks to buy search engine

News Corp. is in talks to buy a stake in an unnamed search engine as part of its plan to create a major portal and expand on the Internet, Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said this week.

"We are in advanced negotiations to buy a controlling interest in what we think is a wonderful search engine" but that has an "insignificant price," Murdoch said during an earnings conference call with analysts on Wednesday.

The company is embarking on a major expansion on the Internet aimed at coalescing its online properties around a main portal based on the assets of Fox Interactive Media, he said. Of the Internet expansion, Murdoch said, "There is no greater priority for the company today."

News Corp. has planned to spend about $2 billion on Internet acquisitions, including the $580 million it agreed to pay to buy Intermix Media, which owns MySpace.com, and $60 million it is paying for sports Web site owner Scout Media, according to Murdoch.

Murdoch said he doesn't see the future News Corp. portal competing much with search giant Google, and that it's more likely to compete with Yahoo, "although I don't see why we can't live side by side with them," he added.

America Online also is in the process of reinventing itself as a free portal, opening up its Time Warner content that was previously walled off to subscribers and banking on the surging demand for broadband access.

A News Corp. spokesman did not immediately return a call seeking comment on Friday.

On Wednesday, the company beat analyst estimates by posting fourth-quarter profit of 23 cents a share and revenue of $6.1 billion.

 

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