Mariner goes after Beyond


SYDNEY -- Australian funds management group Mariner Financial Ltd. is making a bid for Australian independent production company Beyond International, which it plans to use as a seed asset for a new private equity fund.

Mariner, which already holds an 11% stake in Beyond, is offering AUS12 cents (9 cents) per Beyond share, valuing the TV production and distribution company at AUS$68.5 million ($57.1 million). The offer is a 25% premium over Beyond's closing share price Friday. The announcement of the bid led to a halt in trading of Beyond shares, in accordance with ASX regulations.

Mariner said that Beyond, which produces such programs as Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters" and "Hot Property" for the Seven Network, will be the seed asset of a private equity fund to be established by Mariner, which will focus on the acquisition of small- to mid-cap companies in the Australian market.

Beyond is the only independent Australian production and distribution company not to have been acquired in the current consolidation of Australia's media businesses after the loosening of media ownership laws earlier this year.

Last month, Beyond reported a 40% jump in annual earnings and an after-tax profit increase to AUS$4.34 million. It also forecast further earnings and profit growth of 15%-20% in the current fiscal year (HR 8/31).

"Mariner's takeover bid offers liquidity and an exit strategy for Beyond shareholders," Mariner managing director Bill Ireland said in a statement.

Mariner COO Alexander Sundich said: "We already know the management team and we like the management team. So ultimately we see ourselves working with them to basically create a lot of value once this thing is private."

Beyond chairman Ian Ingram and director Anthony Lee also sit on the board of Mariner. Beyond indicated that it had other proposals from potential suitors for the company, and would consider the Mariner offer, it said in a statement to the ASX on Friday. An announcement is expected Tuesday, when the trading halt is due to be lifted.