(Adds details about T Rowe Price objections in paragraphs
10-11, 12; Fox and News Corp declining to comment)
Nov 25 (Reuters) - T. Rowe Price, a major
shareholder in News Corp, said it had strong
reservations about Rupert Murdoch's plan to reunite News Corp
and Fox Corp, The New York Times reported on Friday,
joining other investors in dissent over the plan.
T. Rowe Price told the newspaper that a merger of the two
companies would probably undervalue News Corp, which it believes
is trading for less than it is worth.
T. Rowe Price owns about 17.88% of News Corp, according to
Refinitiv data, and is the largest shareholder after the Murdoch
Fox and News Corp declined to comment, while T. Rowe Price
did not immediately respond to Reuters requests for comment.
Other major shareholders Independent Franchise Partners and
Irenic Capital have also opposed Murdoch's plan, disclosed in
October, to recombine the companies that he separated in 2013.
Fox and News Corp said in October they formed special
committees to review proposals for a potential combination.
Independent Franchise Partners owns about 7% of News Corp's
Class A shares and 6.4% in Fox Corp. Activist investor Irenic
Capital Management holds 2% of News Corp's shares.
T. Rowe Price wanted to make its concerns known to the
boards and the public before the companies put forward any firm
proposal, the newspaper quoted Vincent DeAugustino, one of the
portfolio managers who oversees T. Rowe's investment in News
Corp, as saying.
"It's more constructive to help form the process than try to
push back against any proposal once it's been made," DeAugustino
told the newspaper, adding that T. Rowe Price had raised its
concerns with News Corp's special committee in recent weeks.
The asset management firm also had concerns related to the
potential financial consequences of litigation against Fox News
by the voting machine companies Dominion and Smartmatic,
He also cited worries that the special committees appointed
to review the deal were not sufficiently independent.
In the 2013 split, Murdoch put his publishing business in
News Corp, a newly created public entity, and the TV and
entertainment businesses under 21st Century Fox.
Analysts have raised concerns over the merger, saying that
News Corp needs to simplify by selling off or spinning off
assets instead of recombining with Fox. Any deal would require
the support of independent shareholders.
(Reporting by Akriti Sharma and Jaiveer Singh Shekhawat in
Bengaluru; Editing by Leslie Adler, Cynthia Osterman and Edmund