New York Times Co. shares rose to an almost four-month high today amid speculation Carlos Slim, the Mexican billionaire who already owns about 7 percent of the newspaper publisher, increased his stake.
Almost 13 million shares of New York Times were traded yesterday, more than six times the daily average over the previous three months, according to Bloomberg data. The trades included a 7 million-share block at $8.13. The shares rose as much as 9.2 percent today to $9.28, the highest intraday price since Aug. 3.
The trade spurred speculation that Slim was the buyer and Harbinger Capital Partners was the seller, said Boniface “Buzz” Zaino, a money manager at Royce & Associates LLC in New York who holds New York Times shares, and Douglas Arthur, who follows the company at Evercore Partners Inc. A spokeswoman for Slim declined to comment.
A spokesman for Harbinger, which cut its stake by 1.5 million shares to 7.4 percent last quarter, according to a regulatory filing, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
“Every time there is a Slim rumor you have the same kind of volume and the same kind of move up,” Zaino said in a telephone interview. Royce & Associates, based in New York, manages $32 billion. New York Times rose 5.9 percent to $9 as of 12:57 p.m. in New York.
Robert Christie, a spokesman for New York Times, declined to comment.
No Control Plans
Concepcion Rivera, a spokeswoman for Telefonos de Mexico SAB, which Slim controls, said the company doesn’t comment on speculation. Arturo Elias, a spokesman for Slim, said in September that the billionaire didn’t want to buy or take control of the New York Times.
Harbinger, a New York-based hedge fund, is under investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. attorney’s office over a $113 million loan to its founder, Philip Falcone, to pay personal taxes, according to two people with knowledge of the probe. A call to Jeff Zelkowitz, a spokesman for Harbinger, wasn’t immediately returned.
New York Times also may be benefiting from speculation that automobile manufacturers are poised to increase advertising spending after last week’s initial public offering by General Motors Co., said Craig Hodges, president of Hodges Capital Management Inc. in Dallas, which manages $800 million including New York Times shares.
“The car companies are pretty major advertisers in media,” Hodges said. “With the resurgence of Ford and GM, I think that’s actually helping the bottom lines of a lot of these media companies.” Shares of Ford Motor Co. closed at a six-year high on Nov. 15. General Motors, which went bankrupt last year and restructured, raised more than $20 billion in its IPO.
Hodges also owns Belo Corp., the Dallas-based owner of 20 television stations.
“They’ve indicated to us the car business is really coming back strong,” he said of Belo.
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