BID TAKES TOLL ON VIACOM

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Even with an edge that appeared more secure than at any other time during its four-month battle for Paramount Communications, Viacom remained locked late last week with QVC Network in a war to win Wall Street support.

Viacom officials said they consider their offer to be "a clear win"-a sentiment investors generally shared, pushing the price of Viacom shares to new lows. Declining share price is a phenomenon afforded the perceived winner of a public company auction, in anticipating of the suitor lessening the value of its shares by assuming more debt or issuing more stock.

Paramount last week surprised analysts by announcing it expects to report a $35 million to $40 million loss for the quarter ended Jan. 31. Paramount expects an $18 million loss from its 50% stake in cable TV's USA Network due to lower than expected ratings, as well as a loss in motion picture operations.

There was growing speculation among traders that QVC may opt for a surprise move this week. Paramount shareholders must tender their shares by Feb. 14.M

Ms. Mermigas is financial editor at Electronic Media.

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