Australian newspaper publisher John Fairfax Holdings has hotly denied it is up for sale, ahead of relaxation in media ownership rules due later this year.

Fairfax, which owns the Sydney Morning Herald and Australian Financial Review among other media assets, is louder yet in its attempt to still speculation that it could be bought by the agressively acquisitive Macquarie Media Group.

Thunders Fairfax chairman Ron Walker: "Macquarie can look until they're blue in the face but we're not for sale. Fairfax is a great company and our intention is to expand the business when the right opportunities arise. There is no thought at all of doing deals with Macquarie Bank."

To this end the publisher has spent more than A$50 ($37m; €30m; £21m) million on two online businesses, a holiday booking site and a dating site. it has also taken a 20% stake in a web advertising company.

MMG remains zip-lipped on the Fairfax rumours as it concentrates on its latest acquisition, a A$1.2 billion controlling stake in Taiwan Broadband Communications [WAMN: 20-Dec-05].

Changes in Australia's media laws have been mooted over many years, but it is likely that 2006 will finally see them come into effect, driven by communications minister Helen Coonan.

Regulations on foreign ownership will be loosened and media companies will be allowed to own both TV and newspaper interests in the same city.

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