That great sucking sound in the March quarter was Nine Entertainment gobbling up all interest among investors in the listed Australian media sector, helped by the ratings success of Married At First Sight, and then the news that the network had snapped up the rights to the Australian summer of tennis for $60 million a year. Investors assume that means Nine will beat Seven to win the 2018 ratings and take a bigger share of shrinking TV ad revenues.
Nine Entertainment shares leapt 47% in the quarter, boosting the value of the company from just under $1.1 billion to a shade under $2 billion by close on the Thursday before Easter. That will make sure the bonuses will be available for collection by senior management post June 30. But Nine might be facing a problem next summer -- it seems Seven and Foxtel have the box seat to pick up the cricket from later this year with media reports suggesting Cricket Australia summarily rejected the linked offer from Nine and Ten
Seven will still have the final year of its tennis deal next January, meaning Nine might not have any summer sport (but offsetting that will be big cost savings, while Seven’s will be higher for one season).
The rest of the listed media section lost ground -- Seven West Media slid 12% to a value of around $814 million, Fairfax Media shares lost more than 13%, with the value falling to $1.55 billion, News Corp’s Australian listed securities fell 3.1% (and 3% on Wall Street) to $12.1 billion, Southern Cross shares shed 12.6% to a value of $796 million, but regional group, Prime saw its shares end up 7.4% and the valuation rose to $110 million.
The gain in Nine means Bruce Gordon is the quarter’s big winner. He owns around 14.9% of Nine, now worth 47% more at around $295 million. Kerry Stokes remains a loser with his 41% of Seven West cheaper even though the market liked the cost cuts and attack on its huge debt announced in February. Seven shares closed at 54 cents last Thursday, just three cents higher than before the half year profit news on February 20, but down 15% from the 64.5 cent high hit after the results were released.
But he remains underwater with his 11% of Prime (worth around $11 million) down 25% at 30 cents a share, from the 40 cents he paid last year. He hasn’t lost that losing touch, but the Nine gains will go some way to erasing the hundreds of millions of dollars in losses from his adventure in the Ten Network over the years.
Among other media related stocks, shares in Domain Holdings fell 5.2% in the quarter, cutting the value of the company to just under $1.9 billion. Shares in outdoor group, oOH! Media rose 2% and the value edged up to $757 million while shares in its one time marriage partner, APN Outdoor rose 1.3% in the quarter with the value hitting $775 million (thereby again justifying there was no need for the merger idea in the first place except to make more money and screw advertisers by dominating the only growing legacy media type.
HT&E (the old APN), a radio network group, saw its shares rise 1.4% and the value rose to $309 million. Shares in NZME, the Kiwi part of APN saw its value remain steady in the first three months at around $149 million with its share price flat. Macquarie Media, 54% owned by Fairfax media, was valued at $232 million at the end of the quarter (its shares didn’t move over the period).
Looking at the value of Fairfax Media, its 60% of Domain was worth $1.134 billion at the end of the quarter, meaning the rest of the company -- its metro and community papers, 50% of the video streamer Stan, Stuff (the former Fairfax New Zealand) and 54.5% of Macquarie Media ($126 million) -- is only worth around $425 million. Strip out Macquarie Media and the papers and half of Stan, other businesses are worth less than $300 million. All these business will produce revenue of more than $1.25 billion in the year to June, and earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of around $150 million. The market is telling us that is not worth as much as it seems on paper.