Jones re-signs (sorry, not resigns). Alan Jones has re-signed with Sydney AM talkie 2GB in a contract that will last until June 2017. In other words, Gloria’s tonsils will be terrorising the craven political classes on behalf of around 180,000 (at best) older listeners among Sydney’s 4.4 million people. Jones has hosted Breakfast on 2GB since 2002. His program has been Sydney’s highest rating breakfast radio show for 13 years, recording 87 consecutive No. 1 rankings. He used to warble for 2UE. With Fairfax and Macquarie still talking about a merger, Jones’ position as a major shareholder in John Singleton’s Macquarie, and his leading position in AM talk in Sydney, makes him the prize asset. Will Fairfax effectively sell its radio business to Macquarie and take shares in the merged entity (a form of vendor finance for Singleton, who obviously doesn’t want to finance Macquarie’s expansion by himself)? — Glenn Dyer
Correction of the day. Oops, once again, for The Australian Financial Review’s Rear Window column. On Thursday, one half of the column, Will Glasgow, wrote (in the column’s lunching-and-dining-free-plug section for Sydney’s Rockpool eatery) under the headline, “Sky lunches with Ten”:
“Qantas marketing executive, Olivia Wirth was there with Ten news and current affairs chief Peter Meakin (aka Papa Smurf) and Sky news boss Angelos Frangopoulos. You get the sense the plotting of a merged Foxtel-Ten news division is well underway … Also scattered at tables around Neil Perry’s Sydney power diner were Seven commercial director Bruce McWilliam …”
On Friday in Rear Window, Joe Aston and Will Glasgow wrote, under the headline, “Seven charms of AFL”:
“If you want a job done properly, do it yourself. With such homespun advice, we rolled up our sleeves and went out to lunch at Sydney’s Rockpool Bar and Grill on Thursday — after unwisely delegating the job the day before to a chap who mistook Sky news boss, Angelos Frangopoulos’ lunch companion, Seven boss (and Sky chairman) Tim Worner, for Peter ‘Papa Smurf’ Meakin. Honestly … some people … and who should we bump into as we strolled across Global HQ? Worner himself sitting at a table with Seven commercial director, Bruce McWilliam, who put us at ease by explaining the Worner-Meakin mix-up happens all the time. Phew”.
If you had trouble working that out, it’s a correction. Perhaps they need better binoculars at Rear Window, as the column recently claimed John Brogden, the former head of the Financial Services Council, had lunched with Alan Bond, when it was in fact well known Sydney broker and Liberal Party mover and shaker John Valder. — Glenn Dyer
Ten shares slump further. Shares in Network Ten slumped to just 20 cents yesterday in a market that rose strongly, raising again the question: will the mooted takeover activity around the embattled network happen? The fall in the share price of 11.1% was the largest this year and means the shares are now down more than 23% since the deadline for bids passed on Tuesday with the company’s advisers receiving “a number of proposals”. But none of those proposals have convinced the market, especially with news that the favoured bidders, Foxtel and Discovery of the US, had cut their offer to around 23 cents a share.
The future success of that offer is now in doubt (if the fall in the shares in the past three days are any guide). At 20 cents, the shares are only 2 cents away from the all-time low, but they are 18 cents away from the all-time high reached earlier this year when Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull sparked speculation about media law changes under the Abbott government. But that has since been put on the backburner.
Over at The Australian, optimistic media business writer Darren Davidson noted the sharp fall in Ten’s shares yesterday, but said this was because the “takeover proposals do not represent a significant premium to current trading levels”. Hmm, the fall also indicates the market reckons the bid has a poor chance of succeeding, if and when it emerges.
Once again Ten is rewriting takeover lore, with shares falling to near-record levels, despite there being a reported three offers under consideration. That is not supposed to happen, unless the target company is in such poor financial health that not even bottom-fishing hedge funds will go near it to try and make a quick turn. What will eager sellers in Lachie Murdoch and James Packer do if nothing happens? We should know by the Ten AGM on December 17. — Glenn Dyer
Malone encroaches on Murdoch territory. There could be a series of multibillion-dollar deals in the UK broadcast media industry that will not only change the nature of the sector, but reach across Europe and to Australia. There’s a tantalising story that the UK mobile phone giant Vodafone is allegedly sniffing around Liberty Global, the international arm of John Malone. Malone’s 29%-owned associate Discovery may or may not be trying to buy the Ten Network in Australia in a venture with Foxtel, which is 50% owned by the Murdoch clan’s News Corp Australia.
Liberty Global controls Virgin Media in the UK, the country’s second biggest pay TV business, and 6% of ITV, Britain’s leading commercial TV network, plus stakes in a number of cable companies in 12 countries across Europe. Such a move would allow Vodafone, which has been trying to move into pay TV, to buy an established business that would allow it to not only match BT Group, but also Sky in the UK and across Europe. Liberty has 20 million customers with 56 million subscriptions covering video, phone and internet customers, US$20 billion in revenues and 38,000 employees.
For John Malone, it’s a real chance to become very, very wealthy — much wealthier than Rupert Murdoch, his old stalking horse and cash register. Malone and Liberty Global have dealt with Murdoch, Foxtel and News Corp before. Liberty and Malone sold Australian regional pay-TV operator Austar to Foxtel three years ago for around $2 billion, of which Liberty received nearly $1.1 billion. Also remember that John Malone boosted his fortune by nearly snatching control of News Corp from Murdoch a decade ago. Malone received billions of dollars in assets, cash and pay TV networks and has built that into one of the biggest media empires in the world, spread across at least four companies. Any deal in London with Vodafone will crown that career and put enormous pressure on one of the jewels in the Murdoch clan’s empire. — Glenn Dyer
Front page of the day. Who said regional growth was dead? Godspeed, Townsville (though we’re still tipping Geelong for any future football matches).