Less than an hour after
Crikey landed in subscriber inboxes yesterday with the news that
Australia’s leading motor vehicle advertising website Carsales.com.au
had sealed a deal to merge with the Packer family’s Publishing and
Broadcasting classified websites, PBL made this announcement at 2.11pm on the ASX website.

Carsales
chief Greg Roebuck told Crikey this morning negotiations with PBL were
one of business’s best kept secrets – they’d been going on unreported
for months until Crikey broke the news yesterday. The deal – in which
Carsales will purchase ACP’s Carpoint.com.au, Boatpoint.com.au,
Bikepoint.com.au and Ihub.com.au (“the leading online specialist
equipment marketplace in Australasia”) as well as Equipment Research
Group Pty Ltd (ERG), in return for giving ACP equity equivalent to 41%
in Carsales – was “done and dusted” by yesterday, says Roebuck, pending
shareholder approval, to be voted on in a 28 October AGM.

But if
you’re looking for the finer details on the big deal – covered in all
the major dailies today – best to avoid Terry McCrann’s article in the Herald Sun
(not online). According to Roebuck, McCrann’s description of the
company’s chairman Wal Pisciotta as a “Melbourne car dealer” is wrong –
Pisciotta is chairman of Reynolds and Reynolds Australia but is not and
has never been a dealer. And Reynolds and Reynolds,
which McCrann describes as a “US search and software group” and
shareholder of Carsales, is actually a software systems supplier that
caters to car dealers, says Roebuck. And while the US parent company
has never been a Carsales shareholder, even its Australian arm is not
on the company’s share register any more. As for Carsales’ 2004-2005
profit, it was $3.8 million on revenue of $13.4 million, not, as Terry wrote, $3.5 million on revenue of $25-30 million. Oops.

Getting
back to business, is Roebuck as excited about the merger as PBL
chairman James Packer said he was in yesterday’s announcement? Pretty
much. We looked at PBL’s competitors, Roebuck told Crikey, but “the
newspaper guys just aren’t getting there … they’re struggling to stay
in touch” with internet developments. Whereas PBL was attractive for
its relationship with Seek.com.au – a very good, well run business that
has been “pushed ahead” by PBL’s involvement.

Peter Fray

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