We could be about to see one of the silliest situations in the Australian media industry — two very rich people in an absurd stand-off, unwilling to grab their share of $136 million.
In the blue corner, multi-millionaire Eva Presser, chairman and CEO of the worst-performing TV station in the country, STW 9; in the red corner, WIN Corporation and billionaire Bruce Gordon. Presser and her interests control 49% to 51% of Sunraysia; WIN has a stake of just under 44%, but is impotent with no board representation.
At stake is the $136 million Sunraysia will receive for selling its Perth station to PBL Media, even though WIN has a higher bid and is promising a new offer today. Logically when a company with no real assets other than one major business, like Sunraysia has with STW 9, sells that business, there should be a capital return to shareholders. But the takeover battle for STW is far from logical. It’s dominated by animosity rarely seen publicly.
Presser and her interests have actively locked WIN out of any involvement in the running of STW 9 Perth, despite its substantial interest, and rejected a takeover offer from WIN in the 1990s. Presser now proposes to sell the station to PBL Media for just over $136 million, or around $11.96 a share, well under the last sale in the market of $13.50.
WIN went to court to get a shareholder meeting stopped from considering PBL Media’s $136 million bid and launched its own offer valued at just $10 million more. That was rejected by Sunraysia on Friday with some interesting and, at times, stunning logic. Basically Sunraysia doesn’t want to say yes to an offer from the Gordons and has advanced myriad reasons about relative values, assets and valuations.
Sunraysia shareholders are now due to meet on 24 April (just before Anzac Day). Even if they approve the offer we could have the amazing spectacle of $136 million sitting in the Sunraysia accounts and shareholders unable to access it. Any move to spend it by the Presser camp would be challenged by WIN and any meeting of shareholders would be dominated by WIN if a proposal to buy something was put up by the Presser interests.
No doubt a smart lawyer could eventually find a way around it but if WIN was to launch a dinkum offer with a price $20 million or more above the PBL Media offer, then we might see some progress and real pressure applied to the Presser interests.