Sky Network Television chief John Fellet says he's been offered just about every media asset in Australasia but hasn't been tempted even though analysts estimate the pay-TV company could have $400 million of surplus funds as its capital expenditure programme winds down.
Sky TV's period of heavy investment over recent years in new technology, set-top box upgrades, new content and enhancements in sales and marketing will come to an end in about six months, bolstering its cash flow, with analysts at Morningstar estimating the company could free up more than $400 million of capital. Citibank is due to report back to the board next month on what to do with the extra cash.
"Over the last three years, every media asset in Australasia has been presented to me, saying you have got to buy this billboard company, you have got to buy MediaWorks, you have got to buy TV7 out of Australia, you have got to buy NZME," chief executive John Fellet told BusinessDesk, adding he had turned them all down to focus on the company's own business.
"The board, by the way, had some interest in some of those other ones and I fought it and I said let's go to a neutral party so Citibank has been brought in, and they will take a look at all these."
Fellet said what scares him more than anything else as an investor "is a CEO with too much money, because they go out and say I want to do something with it, and they sometimes make bad decisions."
Companies likely to be open to offers include NZME, APN News & Media's local unit, and Fairfax Media's New Zealand business - even though they are currently in merger talks, Fellet said. He didn't rule out potential acquisitions of telecommunications companies such as Vodafone's local unit or 2Degrees, saying "everything is part of the mix".
Sky TV has in the past bought only strategic assets rather than a stand-alone business, he said.
Forsyth Barr analyst Blair Galpin said Sky TV has historically been careful when making acquisitions, looking for both earnings growth and strategic benefits. He noted Fatso complemented its existing video delivery service while free-to-air TV station Prime provided it with regulatory and rights benefits, and OnSite Broadcasting (NZ) added production capability.
"The question is what do we do with the cash flow," Fellet said. "So we sit there and do I buy a business or instead do I hand money back to the shareholders."
Returning money to shareholders could be by way of a share buyback or increased dividends, he said. "Citibank will be that neutral party that will help myself and the board through that discussion."
Sky TV shares fell 0.2 per cent to $4.15 and have dropped 35 per cent in the past 12 months. The stock is rated a 'hold' based on the consensus of seven analysts polled by Reuters.