Two
substantial shareholders in Kerry Packer’s PBL have made a big bet on
the company, spending more than a quarter of a billion dollars between
them in the past couple of months to boost their holdings.

While
large US investor Capital Group has increased its stake by 6.899
million shares to 6.07%, at a cost of just over $100 million, Perpetual
has made an even bigger punt by buying another 11.58 million shares in
recent months to reverse a recent selling trend. This has cost
Perpetual around $170 million, and it now has more than 59.61 million
shares in the company.

The buying has helped support the PBL
share price around the $15 mark, although it has slipped in the past
week or so (it closed on Monday at $14.84) on investor worries about
the cost cutting at Nine and falling margins in TV.

But PBL’s
strongest businesses are in gaming, where it has spent the best part of
a billion dollars in the past 18 months expanding here (Burswood) and
in Asia (Melco Holdings in Macau). It has also invested around $50
million growing its magazine businesses in Britain and here with the
launch of Madison, the revamp of the Women’s Weekly and a new title from Phil Scott’s Lifestyle group.

In
contrast it has been cutting costs, including staff numbers and all
forms of spending, discretionary and Capex at Nine to try to bring the
cost base back to match the slow growth in revenue.

Peter Fray

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