Fremantle buys into Beyond in Oz

19.9% stake furthers Australian foothold

SYDNEY -- FremantleMedia has acquired a 19.9% stake in "Mythbusters" producer Beyond International, one of Australia's largest independent TV production and distribution outfits.

"The U.S. and Australia are of crucial importance for FremantleMedia, and Beyond has great strengths in both markets," Fremantle operations and strategy director Christian Schneider-Sickert said Wednesday.

Fremantle stake in Beyond, bought for an undisclosed amount, was acquired from private equity group Mariner Financial, which failed in its bid earlier this year to take over the entirety of Beyond.

Mariner acquired the 19.9% stake for AUS$1.25 ($1.02) a share, valuing the company then at AUS$72.9 million ($60 million).

Beyond, which also makes the shows "What's Good for You," "Beyond Tomorrow" and "Hot Property," has a large slate of its own and third-party productions it holds for international distribution. It has production offices in Australia, Ireland and the U.S.

Since its 2006 formation from the merger of Grundy Television and Crackerjack Prods., FremantleMedia Australia has been one of the country's largest TV producers. FMA produces "Australian Idol," "The Biggest Loser," "So You Think You Can Dance Australia" and "Australia's Got Talent" as well as original formats "The Choir of Hard Knocks" and "The Gift."

A full takeover of Beyond would arguably make FMA the largest production company in the country.

Beyond managing director Mikael Borglund called the acquisition "a major expression of confidence in the company."

Mimi Turner in London contributed to this report.