Murdoch Eyes 100 Percent of New Zealand Pay-TV Leader

02 July 2003

Independent Newspapers, the New Zealand publishing group controlled by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, is mulling the acquisition of yet more shares in the nation’s sole satellite-television operator, Sky TV New Zealand.

Murdoch – who understands the power of percentages better than most – controls Independent Newspapers with a stake of just 45% while Independent, in turn, controls Sky NZ with a majority 66% holding.

Right now Independent is awash with cash, having just sold its publishing assets to Australia’s second largest newspaper group John Fairfax Holdings for NZ$1.2bn ($0.71bn; €0.62bn; £0.43bn).

Says Independent chairman Ken Cowley: “We are considering the options around Sky, but I can assure you that we will not be paying any excessive price or premium.” He added that he had commissioned an independent valuation of the broadcaster.

But he also revealed that Independent will also consider buying back shares or paying special dividends. Even more likely, as one local analyst pointed out, NewsCorp needs the extra cash back at the ranch to help fund the purchase of US satellite giant DirecTV.

[Which might also explain the independent valuation of Sky NZ. Murdoch could be in selling rather than buying mode, given that he has to find $6.6 billion to fund the 34% controlling stake in Hughes Electronics (parent of DirecTV).]

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff