Are we about to see an explosion in media deals promised when the laws changed a fortnight ago? There’s talk we may hear today of a deal between Macquarie Media Group and Southern Cross Broadcasting which were meeting in Melbourne yesterday.

Southern Cross Broadcasting issued a statement this morning:

Southern Cross Broadcasting (Australia) Limited notes this morning’s press speculation about discussions between the company and Macquarie Media Group.

Southern Cross Broadcasting confirms that it has held discussions with a number of media companies.

As Southern Cross has previously advised the market, the company is continuing to explore a number of opportunities to maximise shareholder value, including mergers, acquisitions and divestments.

The proposed buyers of APN News and Media lifted their offer to $6.20 a share to try and convince a number of big shareholders to sell. The told price was $6.10, so that hardly seems convincing.

APN said the consortium of “Independent News & Media, Providence Equity Partners and The Carlyle Group has increased the price it is offering to APN shareholders under the proposed scheme of arrangement from $6.10 to $6.20 per share. The consortium has advised that this price is final.” So no more increases.

There are also suggestions that we may see an announcement from Austar tomorrow about why its share price keeps rising: it hit a new high of $1.71 on Monday amid continuing talk that Foxtel is after it. Foxtel refuses to comment.

There are also suggestions that Bruce Gordon’s WIN regional TV group is close to doing a deal to buy its fellow Nine Network affiliate, NBN, from SPTelemedia. The price could be around $160 million.

That’s also the new net price (new and improved!) offer from WIN for our old friends in Perth, Sunraysia TV.

Win Corporation has lifted its offer for Perth’s Nine Network TV station operator, Sunraysia TV, to a serious amount last night, putting it in direct conflict with James Packer’s PBL Media.

In a letter to Sunraysia and the ASX late last night, WIN said it was lifting its offer from a net $146.2 million to a new figure of $163.2 million. (The gross price is around $179 million, according to the WIN statement.)

The net price is $27 million more than the $136 million offered by PBL Media in a deal accepted by the directors of Sunraysia late last week.

It is around $38 million more than the gross figure for the valuation of the Perth Nine TV licence by STV directors of some $115 million.

Directors of STV rejected the first offer for various reasons, the most important being a request by WIN that the major shareholder and chairman and CEO of Sunraysia, Eva Presser, indicate if she would be participating in a buyback of STV shares once the sale had gone through.

She refused, saying that could expose STV to a move by WIN to grab control and she had yet to consider the tax and other implications of a buyback.

The PBL Media offer was accepted because the first WIN offer did not offer enough to take account of possible extra charges for any warranty breaches and other costs involved in the PBL offer.

After considering the financial impact of these possible future costs, directors said the difference between the net price offered by WIN was not sufficiently ahead of their valuation of the licence to warrant being accepted.

But the real sticking point between the two parties was the long animosity between Presser and her interests who have controlled STV for 15 years or so, and WIN, who has been locked into a minority shareholder position (with almost 44%) with no board representations and at least one spurned takeover offer.

Presser really feared that Gordon and WIN would swoop to snatch control if she indicated she and her associates would be taking part in the buy back proposed by STV, once the sale money had been received.

After the rejection late last week WIN said it would look again at STV and the reasons advanced by directors and probably produce a new offer as soon as possible.

That came last night and WIN says the new bid effectively values STV at $14.29 a share, compared to the $11.96 in the PBL Media offer and a market price of $13.50. One thousand shares were traded yesterday at that price.

WIN also said it was now not pressing “its prior requirement that Ms Presser confirm the extent to which shareholders associated with her will participate in the buy-back proposed by Sunraysia directors”.

WIN says that if the latest offer is not executed by Sunraysia and its subsidiary, Swan TV (which holds the licence for STW 9) “by 5pm Friday April 20” it will lapse.

That gives Presser and her board associates the opportunity to ignore the WIN offer until Friday and let it lapse. What will be of interest now is whether PBL Media steps in with a higher offer or allows Presser to allow the WIN offer to lapse.

The takeover battle is a sign of the fractured relations James Packer and his executive team are facing as they seek to rebuild earnings at the Nine Network.

Peter Fray

Help us keep up the fight

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today and get your first 12 weeks for $12.

Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey