Crown Media Stock Soars on Hallmark Filing

Shares Rise 19.2% Amid Possible “Going Private” Transaction
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Crown Media Holdings shares soared more than 19% on Tuesday, the day after its largest shareholder said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it was considering taking the Hallmark Channel parent private.

According to an SEC filing June 24,  Hallmark Cards, the Kansas City-based greeting card giant, said its standstill agreement with Crown Media expires on Dec. 31. As a result, the company, which currently owns about 90% of Crown Media stock, is evaluating its options. Those include doing nothing, purchasing the remaining stock in Crown it doesn’t already own, encouraging Crown’s board of directors to initiate a stock repurchase plan, engaging in a short-form merger to eliminate the minority stockholders in Crown or some other “going private” transaction; proposing that Crown’s board consider delisting its stock from the NASDAQ Exchange; or disposing all or a portion of its investment in Crown in a privately negotiated transaction or series of transactions, according to the filing.

Crown Media shares were up as much as 19.7% (41 cents each) in afternoon trading Tuesday to $2.49 per share. The stock closed at $2.48 per share on June 25, its highest close since March 2011.

Officials at Crown Media and Hallmark Crads declined comment.

Taking the programmer private would seem to be relatively cheap for the greeting card giant. According to SEC documents, Hallmark already owns 324.9 million of Crown’s 359.6 million shares outstanding. To acquire the remaining 35 million shares, Hallmark Cards would need only to shell out about $85 million at current prices

Taking Crown private would remove the programmer from Wall Street’s critical eye and allow it to invest more heavily in programming or other long-term initiatives. Going private also could make an eventual sale of the channel easier.

Hallmark Channel is currently available in about 87 million homes and the Hallmark Movie Channel is available in about 50 million homes.