Sky Network Television will pay an early interim dividend ahead of the planned merger with Vodafone New Zealand and raise the cash portion of its acquisition of the telecommunications carrier to reflect a bigger return than their agreement provided for.
Auckland-based Sky TV will pay 15 cents per share, or $58.4 million, on February 22 to shareholders on the register on February 15, it said in a statement. The announcement was released ahead of Sky TV's first-half result to enable a return to shareholders ahead of the planned transaction with Vodafone. Last month, Sky TV warned earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation for the year ending June 30, 2017, is expected to be 5 per cent to 7 per cent below the $296 million forecast it gave in June. It paid an interim dividend of 15 cents in 2016.
The merger would see Sky TV buy Vodafone NZ for $3.44 billion, funded by a payment of $1.25b in cash and the issue of new Sky TV shares at a price of $5.40 per share. Vodafone becomes a 51 per cent majority shareholder in Sky TV, in what amounts to a reverse takeover. The pay-TV operator will borrow $1.8b from Vodafone to fund the purchase, repay existing debt and use for working capital.
The agreement allowed for an interim dividend of up to 10 cents per share and the two companies have agreed to alter the deal to allow the larger return. The amendment means Sky TV's cash portion of the Vodafone acquisition will increase to reflect the 5 cents per share difference.
The transaction still needs Commerce Commission approval, which has been delayed several times. In October the regulator raised concerns about what impact the deal would have on competition in the market, saying while consumers may benefit from cheap services at first, other broadband and mobile providers could lose the ability to build scale in their businesses and become weaker rivals.
Sky TV shares last traded at $4.68, and have increased 9 per cent over the past 12 months.