Southern Cross Media keen on NZME's radio assets

By Paul McBeth

NZME declined to engage with Southern Cross Media due to the exclusivity provisions of its merger agreement with Fairfax New Zealand.
NZME declined to engage with Southern Cross Media due to the exclusivity provisions of its merger agreement with Fairfax New Zealand.

ASX-listed Southern Cross Media Group has confirmed it's keen on NZME's New Zealand radio assets and has let the Kiwi company know so.

Southern Cross Media, which owns several regional radio and television stations in Australia, has expressed interest in "potentially acquiring the New Zealand radio assets of NZME" provided they can be carved out of the Kiwi company's print business, it said in a statement to the ASX.

The interest is in line with the Australian company's focus on "operational effectiveness in its existing businesses and investing in new growth opportunities that leverage its expertise in audio and entertainment".

NZME, owner of the New Zealand Herald and other regional newspapers, Newstalk ZB, The Hits, ZM and other radio stations, declined to engage with Southern Cross Media due to the exclusivity provisions of its merger agreement with Fairfax New Zealand.

The New Zealand company's radio and experiential division posted a 4 per cent decline in revenue to $108.7 million in calendar 2016, saying its direct ad revenue in regional markets struggled, while Auckland revenue was stable.

NZME is waiting for the Commerce Commission to make a final decision on whether to let a planned merger with Fairfax proceed. A draft determination shot down the proposal, saying the expected financial gains for the merged entity would be outweighed by the impact on the diversity of media coverage, something NZME and Fairfax say is outside the regulator's remit.

If the merger doesn't go ahead, Fairfax NZ's ASX-listed parent, Fairfax Media Group, has said it is end-game for the Kiwi division, and the Australian media company has already received a low-ball from an unknown suitor, while NZME has said it will weigh up its options.

NZME shares climbed 5.8 per cent to 73 cents, while Southern Cross Media's stock fell 1.3 per cent or A$1.3125.

- BusinessDesk

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