Santa Monica-based Lionsgate Entertainment Corp. agreed to pay $4.4 billion in cash and stock to acquire cable network Starz, the two companies announced Thursday.

The acquisition, if approved by the respective shareholders and regulatory authorities, would create an international content powerhouse with a combined 16,000-title film and television library, making it the largest independent television business in the world, according to a statement issued by Lionsgate.

"The combination of Lionsgate and Starz brings significant scale to our portfolio of content and distribution assets and will enable us to compete successfully in today's rapidly evolving global entertainment marketplace," said Dr. Mark Rachesky, chairman at Lionsgate. He also said the transaction would position the newly combined company to create substantial lasting value for shareholders.

Lionsgate said it will pay $32.73 for each share of Starz’s stock, representing a 16 percent premium based on the closing value of Starz shares on Wednesday. Board members from both companies have already approved the agreement. The transaction would split each share of Lionsgate common stock equally into voting and non-voting shares.

“This transaction unites two companies with strong brands, complementary assets and leading positions within our industry,” said Lionsgate Chief Executive Jon Feltheimer and Vice Chairman Michael Burns in a joint statement. “We expect the acquisition to be highly accretive, generate significant synergies and create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Lionsgate said it plans to fund the cash portion of the transaction with a combination of newly issued bank and bond financing.

Shares of Lionsgate’s stock fell 3 percent in the hours following the announcement.

Staff reporter Jonathan Ponciano can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @jon_ponciano.

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