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Despite loss, Home Shopping spinoff attracting attention

It was an interesting day in the markets Tuesday for Silver King Communications. The company, which owns 12 UHF television stations, announced falling revenues for the quarter, ended May 31, along with plunging profits. And then its stock hit a 52-week high of $10.12{ a share, up $1, in NASDAQ trading. That's up from a low of $2.87{ a share on April 16.

Wall Street's excitement for a media company with falling earnings is the result of a subtle wrinkle in the battle between television stations and cable systems, and a growing expectation _ perhaps unfounded _ that, after months of poor performance, something may be about to go Silver King's way.

At issue is a ruling by the Federal Communications Commission, expected Thursday, that could benefit the company. The FCC is scheduled to decide whether to require cable operators to carry home-shopping programing under so-called must-carry rules.

However, late Tuesday, FCC Commissioner James A. Quello said that the agency had pulled the issue from the schedule at the last minute. "There is no consensus at this time," Quello said.

That news could well quash Silver King's soaring stock price. A spokesman for Silver King did not return telephone calls.

The company's television stations, which reach a total of 28-million households, all carry the programing of the Home Shopping Network. Silver King was spun off from Home Shopping Network in December and its chairman, Roy Speer, has effective voting control of Silver King.

Silver King reported a net loss for its third fiscal quarter ended May 31 of $1.7-million, compared with a loss in the same period last year of $4.2-million. Revenues were nearly $11.2-million, compared with $11.5-million a year earlier.