(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 family.
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, DeAugustino said.
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 Klamann)