A tale of two diversifications: Fairfax, showing the impact of being concentrated in Australia’s low-speed cities, expands in New Zealand; Telstra is having a crack in China. Which one offers the bigger risk but also the much bigger reward? (No need to answer, it was a rhetorical question.)
The lost opportunity belongs to Fairfax because the Telstra punt is in what’s supposed to be Fairfax’s strongest suit – online real estate. Purchasing a controlling interest in China’s leading real estate site is just what a brave and visionary Fairfax should be considering, but it’s what Telstra has done.
Maybe that’s why John Durie is a little narky in his AFR Chanticleer column this morning, wondering why Google or Yahoo didn’t buy 51% of SouFun Holdings if it’s so good. (It’s also reportedly China’s fifth most popular internet site.) Maybe the answer is in the relationship Telstra already has with the vendor, John MacBain’s Trader Classified Media, after buying the Trading Post group two years ago for more than it was worth – and perhaps making a hash of it since. MacBain’s excuse for selling SouFun is that he’s concentrating on building a $1.3 billion philanthropic fund, which seems to be all the fashion at present.
Stephen Bartholomeusz does a good analysis of Telstra’s SouFun numbers in the Smage but there’s another important point: the bet helps make sense of the continuing Hong Kong investment. Having already blown billions in Honkers, the place is only worthwhile as a leg into a larger China game.
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So having watched others steal various parts of its classified lunch at home, Fairfax can observe Telstra getting what could have been its dinner. There is a worry though – Sol Trujillo is leaving this project in the hands of his Sensis people, the ones who are having trouble making the Trading Post acquisition work.