Liberty looking at AT & T?


Liberty Media President and CEO Robert Bennett fed speculation that his company is considering a play for AT & T during a conference call last week. Recent reports have Liberty Chairman John Malone taking a piece of the phone giant in light of its sagging stock price.

"As we've said before, as a result of the MediaOne acquisition, it looks like AT & T has some decisions to make with regard to FCC compliance," Bennett said. "It's really up to AT & T what it wants to do with Liberty and AT & T." Malone sits on the board of AT & T, which is actually the parent company of Liberty.

Liberty reported operating income of $67 million for the quarter ending June 30, compared to a loss of $636 million a year ago. Operating cash flow for the private assets, which include 100% of Starz Encore, 49% of Discovery Communications, 42.6% of QVC and some international properties, was up 17% to $128 million.

Among the results, Discovery's Animal Planet and Travel Channel both hit profitability for the first time this quarter. Animal cash flow was $3 million, compared to a deficit of the same amount last year, and Travel rose to just into the black from a $13 million cash-flow deficit a year ago. Bennett said marketing expenses in the next quarter would probably take Travel back into red ink.