Fairfax’s new chief David Kirk has taken less than five
months to persuade the 175-year-old newspaper group to make the highest-priced
internet acquisition in Australian history – the $625 million surprise purchase
of New Zealand’s leading internet operator, auction site Trade Me, reportsThe Australian.

Just as the sluggishness of John Fairfax’s interim result
stands testimony to the corporation’s atrophy under Fred Hilmer, so this deal
and its price reflects the urgency of Fairfax’s quest to secure
an internet future and the refreshing confidence of Kirk to spend the big bucks
to get it, says the paper’s Matthew Stevens.

Meanwhile, Trade Me founder Sam Morgan – a 30-year-old uni
drop-out from Wellington – has cleaned
up, reportsThe Sydney Morning Herald.
And as he noted in typical understated Kiwi fashion: “We don’t pay capital
gains tax in New Zealand.”

In James Packer’s biggest strategic play since the death of
his father Kerry late last year, PBL is set to strike its biggest blow on the
Asian gambling market, agreeing to buy a $US900 million ($A1.21 billion)
sub-concession licence to own and operate hotel casino resorts in Macau with
partner Melco International, reportsThe
Age
.

PBL is getting the proverbial keys to Macau’s
gambling kingdom and, possibly, some well needed distance from the former
Portuguese colony’s casino king, Stanley Ho, says Colin Kruger in The SMH. Meanwhile, the deal should dispel any doubts that James Packer is remaking his family flagship
into a gambling company, adds Kruger.

In other merger and acquisition news, Commander will become Australia’s fourth-biggest
fixed-line telco when it bolts information technology services group Volante on
to its business, after reaching an agreement to pay an extra $18 million, says
Michael Sainsbury in The Oz.

And transport giant Toll Holdings
is paying $1 billion for majority control of Singapore
logistics company SembCorp Logistics. Toll’s Paul Little now gets to
show the market why he thinks an Asian strategy holds the key to his
future, says John Durie in the Financial Review (not online). And the deal offers a convenient exit strategy from his takeover battle with Patrick.

On Wall Street, US stocks closed sharply lower Monday, after a Treasury
market rout sent yields to multi-year highs, unnerving investors and eclipsing
the positive impact of AT&T’s $67 billion agreement to buy BellSouth Corp.
The Dow Jones closed down 63 points at
10,958,59, a 3-week low.

Peter Fray

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