PBL eyes sell-off of further 25%

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SYDNEY -- James Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. may sell another 25% share of its Australian media businesses to its joint venture partner in PBL Media, private equity group CVC Asia Pacifc.

PBL confirmed Monday that it is in discussions to sell a further 25% interest in PBL Media to funds advised by CVC Asia Pacific and CVC Capital Partners.

"The discussions are not concluded and no relevant agreements have been entered into. PBL will make a further announcement if and when formal arrangements are agreed," the company said.

PBL sold its media assets, which include the Nine TV Network, ACP Magazines and online venture ninemsn, in a deal that netted PBL about AUS$4.5 billion ($3.7 billion) dollars.

At the same time, PBL retained its share of pay TV and digital media businesses including 25% of Foxtel, 50% of Fox Sports and a stake in jobs web site Seek.

PBL announced earlier this month that it plans to split its media and gaming businesses into two separately listed companies, with the media businesses to fall under under the heading Consolidated Media Holdings. That would include the 25% stake in PBL Media.

Analysts said yesterday that a further 25% sell down of its stake in PBL Media could earn PBL $400 million-$500 million ($328 million-$410 million), according to reports here.

"PBL wants to make both assets as attractive as possible. It reduces exposure to a highly leveraged asset and increases the relative exposure to pay TV and Internet assets," Commonwealth Securities analyst Craig Shepherd said.

If the sell down is finalized, PBL and the Packer family would relinquish control of the Nine Network, Australia's largest TV network, leaving James Packer free to focus on his more lucrative gaming and a casino interests.
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