Australian newspaper publisher John Fairfax Holdings says it is talking to potential partners ahead of the government's relaxation in media ownership rules.

Retiring ceo Fred Hilmer says the company is in informal discussion with rivals "to understand what all our options are". He stressed, however, that any merger/takeover moves would be "consensual, with the agreements of the boards".

Changes in the laws, much anticipated and long delayed, could finally be put into effect as early as next year. They would allow media companies to own both TV newspaper interests in the same city, and would loosen regulations on foreign ownership.

Hilmer, who will be replaced at the Fairfax helm by David Kirk in November, was speaking following the release of full-year financial results.

They show an underlying net profit rise of nearly 24% to A$234.1 million ($176m; €143.7m; £97.7m) on increased advertising, cost cutting and the strong performance of the New Zealand business.

Fairfax, which owns the Sydney Morning Herald and Age newspapers among others, plus several NZ metropolitan and provincial papers, reports ad revenue at the Australian publishing operations rose 4.6% to A$1.06bn, although sales of the company's flagship papers continued to decline.

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