Oz Reform Kick Starts Media Selloff

19 October 2006

SYDNEY: Parliament's vote to approve Australia's new media ownership laws had barely been counted when two of the nation's biggest players set in motion a major industry reshuffle.

Packer clan-controlled Publishing and Broadcasting has agreed to spin off 50% of its media properties - including Nine Network, ACP Magazines and online business ninemsn - in a A$4.54 billion ($3.4bn; €2.7bn; £1.8bn) deal with US-owned private equity consortium CVC Asia Pacific.

The pair will set up a new venture called PBL Media to house those assets, while P&B chairman James Packer focuses the rest of the family empire on expanding its gambling interests.

Meanwhile, rival broadcaster Seven Network, controlled by billionaire executive chairman Kerry Stokes, has snapped up an 8.4% stake in Western Australian Newspapers for A$192 million - and is looking for more.

The long-awaited and much debated reforms, the first in twenty years, are expected to trigger a flurry of takeovers in Australia's A$12bn media industry, although they will not take effect until 2007.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff