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Harbinger attracted by media


Of late, Harbinger Capital Partners, the New York based hedge fund, has been gradually showing its attraction to media companies. In the past several days the fund, which, along with Firebrand Investments, already holds roughly a 20 percent stake in the New York Times Co, added economic exposure to 1.9 million NY Times shares in August through share purchases and a series of equity swaps, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In spring 2008, Harbinger and Firebrand increased their Class A stake in the Times to nearly 20% and managed to put two representatives on the NY Times board. Now, by entering into the swaps with an unnamed counterparty, Harbinger and Firebrand have effectively gained economic exposure to an additional 1.7 million Class A shares. The funds also bought 200,000 shares outright for USD 13 a share.

Earlier this month, Harbinger raised its stake in US's fourth-largest cable operator by subscribers - Cablevision Systems Corp - to 8.1 percent. The hedge fund reported owning 19 million shares in a regulatory filing on 21 August, up from 11.5 million as of June 30.

Harbingers interest in media companies is soaring. But what does this represent? The New York-based hedge fund, led by Philip Falcon, has said that it purchased the Cablevision shares "in the belief that the issuer's shares are undervalued." But Harbinger is also known for pushing for change in companies in which it invests.

Are these are value-based investments or is there a smell of activism in the transaction too?

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