Australian newspaper goup John Fairfax, whose assets include the Sydney Morning Herald, is reportedly mulling a stake in compatriot commercial TV operator Ten Network Holdings.

Despite its refusal to comment on an approach to Ten's Canadian owner CanWest, Fairfax has confirmed it is assessing "strategic options including discussions with various industry participants".

Fairfax ceo Fred Hilmer has been sizing up "strategic options" since merger talks with West Australian Newspapers collapsed mid-2004. The gradual erosion of classified advertising is putting pressure on company revenues.

The price of the CanWest stake would likely be around A$1 billion ($767m, €580m, £407m). The country's current foreign and cross-media regulations are to be overhauled which would make any deal easier.

However, some investors are dubious about the benefits of such a tie-up. Says Andrew King of Investors Mutual: "There don't seem to be any significant synergies [between Fairfax and Ten] and the two demographics clearly don't match up so it looks like they are doing a deal for the sake of doing a deal."

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