Moneymen Urge Top Oz TV Channel to Buying Spree

23 August 2007

SYDNEY: In days of yore, wise men counselled that 'money makes money'. But since the markets began to implode last month, the converse is more likely.

Which has not deterred rapacious moneymen from urging the nation's ratings leader Seven Network to hit the acquisition trail.

Seven has had "an outstanding, outstanding year," according to ceo David Leckie. Not only has it overturned the lead of Nine Network in audiences and ad sales, it has also upped its net profit by 62% to A$174 million ($139.2m; €103.2m; £70.25m) in the 2006-07 financial year.

And that profit discounts an exceptional gain of A$1.5 billion from selling a half-stake in the company's TV and magazine assets to US private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

But now the moneymen are restive. As they see it Seven has money burning a hole in its pocket - moolah from which the Lizards of Oz could make yet another killing if only Nine would get out there and buy, buy, buy.

"It's a good time to be cashed up, but we'd like to see a defined strategy outlined to the market," said Atul Lele, a funds manager at White Funds Investment.

And Goldman Sachs JBWere salivated that Seven is "primarily a cash box, so they need to do something with it".

But the TV company wisely remains cautious. "We acknowledge that we have to be very patient to find the right investment," says cfo Peter Lewis.

Although conceding that the current market turmoil "made things look a little better" for buyers, Lewis refused to reveal whether Seven is seeking to buy media or other companies.

Data sourced from Sydney Morning Herald; additional content by WARC staff