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News Corp., Healtheon/WebMD close to deal

News Corp. reportedly is close to agreeing to a complex $1 billion deal that would give the global media giant a stake in online health network Healtheon/WebMD.

News Corp. is close to agreeing to a complex $1 billion deal that would give the global media giant a stake in online health network Healtheon/WebMD, according to a report.

News Corp. may acquire a 10 percent stake in Healtheon/WebMD in exchange for free advertisement time on News Corp.'s television network and some cash, the Financial Times reported today, citing unidentified sources.

The cash transaction would amount to $150 million, the paper reported. The deal is likely to be announced this week.

Last week, Rupert Murdoch, News Corp.'s chief executive, told shareholders that negotiations were going "very well" with Healtheon/WebMD.

Until recently, News Corp. was considered slow in catching on to the rising importance of the Internet. But this year the company has shed its disinterested image and moved quickly to tie its sprawling media empire to online ventures.

News Corp. has taken several strong steps to embrace the Internet. Earlier this year the company created its ePartners Internet investment unit to look for opportunities on the Web; it acquired an equity stake in online pharmacy PlanetRx.com; and it launched the Health Network, a new media company that will provide health information and products for consumers, physicians and hospitals through an integrated Internet and cable platform.

Healtheon/WebMD is expected to provide content for the Health Network.