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Ring It Up: QVC Buys St. Pete-Based HSN In $2 Billion Deal

The fate of HSN's St. Petersburg headquarters, and the 3,000 employees who work there, is up in the air following QVC's $2.1 billion purchase of its television shopping rival.

Home shopping giant and one of the largest employers in St. Petersburg, HSN, is being bought out by its main competitor.

QVC’s parent company, Liberty Interactive, already owns 38 percent of HSN shares. With the new deal, however, the business once known as the Home Shopping Network will cede control of the remaining shares to the rival retail outlet.

The deal is reportedly worth $2.1 billion.

Ashley Kritzer, a reporter for the Tampa Bay Business Journal, said that the future of the roughly 6,000 HSN employees, including 3,000 local jobs, is still being discussed by QVC executives.

“The companies will at least examine what to do about that,” Kritzer said. “It's just too soon to say if there will be cuts or exactly what that St. Petersburg workforce will look like going forward.”

Sridhar Sundaram, the Dean of the USF St. Petersburg Tiedemann College of Business, said that the deal is a great outcome for both sellers and buyers.

Sundaram also said that this reflects the changing landscape of the retail business.

"That landscape is dramatically being changed by powerhouses like Amazon and Wal-Mart and others,” Sundaram said. “So right now, what this allows QVC is a very strong leverage that will be both on an online and a mobile platform."

The agreement is an “all-stock transaction”, a deal where stocks are traded for other stocks. QVC will acquire the 62 percent of HSN’s outstanding stock in exchange of QVC shares traded at a premium. Essentially, those trading away one share of HSN would receive 1.6 shares of QVC, according to Sundaram.

“Basically what that means is, every HSN stockholder is getting a 30 percent premium on their value from (Wednesday),” Sundaram said.

The excitement surrounding the deal reflected on Wall Street as HSN’s stock price rose by $8.40, or 27 percent, to close at $39.70 per share Thursday.

The companies, long known as bases for home shopping on TV, had been dealing with sluggish sales as Amazon dominates online. Both had long moved beyond cable channels and were trying to refashion themselves for younger shoppers buying more on their mobile phones.

"They're a little bit late to the dance of the online arena, but are catching up now," said Craig Johnson, president of Customer Growth Partners, a retail research consulting firm.

The combination will help give QVC and HSN the scale they need to take on more established online competitors. A key focus will have to be offering unique, exclusive products at a compelling value. Otherwise, he said, competitors including Amazon and Walmart will be tough to beat online.

Integrating the two companies will make them "stronger than they are individually and stronger yet as a stand-alone entity" in a "changing and difficult market," said Greg Maffei, Liberty's president and CEO.

Under former CEO Mindy Grossman, HSN had worked to build its e-commerce presence and transform itself into a lifestyle network. It derives half of its revenue from e-commerce, featuring more than 50,000 products on its website along with broadcasting to more than 90 million households. Grossman departed for Weight Watchers earlier this year.

Executives on Thursday highlighted the potential for cost savings, complementary but not wholly overlapping customers, their strength in video and the larger reach the two will have. The companies also said they hope to use Zulily, which QVC bought in 2015, to drive younger customers to both brands.

Combined, they'll serve an estimated 23 million customers worldwide and ship more than 320 million packages every year, said Mike George, QVC's president and CEO. QVC is stronger in fashion and beauty, he said, while crediting HSN in areas like electronics, fitness and health.

He also noted the companies' social media presence and increasing e-commerce sales, with about $7.5 billion, and $4.7 billion in sales from mobile devices. In terms of video reach, the two will access more than 360 million TV homes globally.

Among retailers who operate in multiple categories, George said, the combined company will be No. 3 in North America in e-commerce, as well as in mobile-commerce in the U.S., and behind only Amazon and Walmart in dollar value of transactions.

The company said the deal will mean between $75 million and $110 million in cost savings over the next three to five years. An analysis from Citi had suggested cost savings of up to $100 million a year. In the near term, though, it expects the cost savings to be small.

The deal is expected to close in the fourth quarter.

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