Australia's Packer Ups Ten TV Holdings

Billionaire Not Likely to Pursue Controlling Stake

SYDNEY -- Australian billionaire James Packer has upped his stake in television network Ten Network Holdings to nearly 18%, signaling a return to media investments for the tycoon.

Packer's Consolidated Press Holdings increased its stake in Ten to 17.88%, according to a substantial shareholder notice filed with the Australian Securities Exchange late Wednesday. Ten said the stake had risen from 16.46%.

Packer would need at least a 19.9% stake to trigger any takeover offer under Australian law. Local media said Packer was more likely to seek a board seat on Ten rather than launch a full bid.

The filing confirmed local media reports that Packer, who controls casino operator Crown Ltd. and a 50.5% stake in Consolidated Media Holdings, was buying into Ten.

Earlier, newspapers reported that Packer had acquired a 15.6% stake worth A$245 million ($237 million) from the market at a 6.4% premium to Ten's closing share price on Tuesday.

In a statement on Wednesday, Ten said it was aware of the media reports identifying Packer as the buyer of the 15.6% stake, but it "has yet to be formally advised" as to the identity of the acquirer.

Ten shares closed 9.6% higher at A$1.54 on Wednesday in response to the share raid in a weak market.

In August, Ten forecast a 37% increase in fiscal year earnings, boosted by a new digital channel. Ten is due to report profits on Thursday.

Packer had sold out of his last free-to-air television interest in Channel Nine parent company PBL Media in 2008, to private equity firm CVC.

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