Pay TV was excluded from Helen Coonan’s media gift to the big end of town, which came into force today, which means that means Foxtel, Austar and Optus are free to deal, so long as the competition rules do not stop them.

The three are supposed competitors, but in reality all part of an oligopoly run by Foxtel and Premier Media Group (News and PBL).

Now someone wants to play on the market: Foxtel and its shareholders are the strongest tip.

Austar’s share price has risen 25 per cent in the past month. The shares reached a peak of $1.65 after rising from just under $1.30 in mid-March. And yet not one query from the sleeping watchdogs.

This morning a small paragraph in The AFR did more than the ASX did, forcing this statement from Austar:

AUSTAR notes recent changes to it share price and this morning’s press speculation about potential transactions in relation to AUSTAR.

AUSTAR confirms that it has received confidential approaches from third parties regarding possible transactions however discussions are preliminary, incomplete and highly conditional.

AUSTAR confirms that it is in compliance with the ASX Listing Rules and, in particular, Listing Rule 3.1.

If Austar has only now noted’ recent changes to it(sic) share price” what has it been doing this past month? Stitching up a nice deal?

Austar is controlled by Liberty media, which in turn is controlled by John Malone, whose Direct TV swap with Rupert Murdoch and News Corp went through in New York overnight.

A coincidence?

Peter Fray

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