Speculation rife that buyers could target Fairfax, APN

Speculation is rife across the Tasman that the companies which own New Zealand's two major newspaper chains could be the target of buyers.

A cashed up Seven Network is being seen as one of the most likely to make takeover bids, after it raised A$3.2 billion ($3.7b) by selling a half share in its main television, magazine and online assets to US private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

Seven's executive chairman and major shareholder Kerry Stokes is thought to be in the box seat for the shake-up of the Australian media industry once ownership laws are changed next year.

The Sydney Morning Herald reported today that stockbroking analysts thought that among his targets could be John Fairfax Holdings, and APN News & Media.

The Fairfax stable includes The Sydney Morning Herald and Melbourne's The Age, as well as a range of New Zealand papers such as Wellington's Dominion Post and The Press in Christchurch.

APN News & Media owns newspapers, including the New Zealand Herald, radio stations and outdoor advertising in Australia and this country.

The Australian reported that the Australian sharemarket was abuzz with possible buyers for the Fairfax group, with the newspaper group's shares ending yesterday up almost 4 per cent.

More than 9 million shares were traded -- double the average -- but the largest trade was for only 150,000 shares.

That suggests large retail investors may have been trading, rather than a corporate.

Last week, Rupert Murdoch had said he would buy up to 10 per cent of Fairfax to block a rival bidder if he needed to, having bought 7.5 per cent last month. And on Monday, Mr Stokes kept open the option of a tilt at Fairfax.

- NZPA

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