Australia’s Fairfax Media reviews takeover offer

Troubled Australian media giant Fairfax on Monday said it was wary of splitting up its business after receiving an unsolicited partial buyout offer from US private equity giant TPG Capital.

TPG and the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board have bid for part of the company that would see it takeover its newspapers and the lucrative Domain Group focused on property advertising, Fairfax said in a statement.

Under the proposal, the consortium would pay 95 Australian cents per share for Domain, mastheads including the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, along with the company’s events and digital ventures businesses.

The Australian Financial Review, a Fairfax newspaper, said the deal could be valued at some Aus$2.5 billion (US$1.9 billion).

Existing shareholders would retain Fairfax’s New Zealand arm, which suffered a blow last week when the country’s competition watchdog rejected a merger with NZME, its streaming service Stan and Australian Community Media.

Fairfax said it was reviewing the plan but noted “there is no certainty that the indicative proposal is capable of being implemented given the complexity involved in splitting the businesses”.

“This proposed split of businesses may not optimise shareholder value,” it added.

Any such move would need the government’s Foreign Investment Review Board approval.

Fairfax shares were 2.55 percent higher at Aus$1.08 in late morning trade.

TPG’s move comes with Fairfax journalists on strike for a week in protest at more hefty job cuts as the publisher struggles with slumping advertising revenues.

While its mastheads have suffered in recent times, Domain has fared better, with chief executive Greg Hywood telling a business conference last week that revenues jumped 10 percent in the first 17 weeks of this year.

The group is the main rival in Australia to News Corp, Rupert Murdoch’s Australian empire, which is also suffering from falling revenues.

Fairfax in February reported a six percent rise in half-year net profit to Aus$84.7 million amid cost-cutting and a strong showing by Domain.