John Drinnan

Media writer for the New Zealand Herald

Debt buyout relieves pressure on MediaWorks

Photo / Martin Sykes
Photo / Martin Sykes

MediaWorks is shrugging off weighty interest obligations thanks to a discounted buyout of debt that has led to three companies tussling for control of the company.

The new structure could ease the burden of interest from high debt in MediaWorks, which owns TV3, Four and half the country's radio stations including RadioLive, More FM, The Rock and The Edge.

But a source says that despite the movement on debt, the final ownership structure of the company is still "a work in progress".

United States private equity group Oaktree has bought $125 million of MediaWorks debt from Royal Bank of Scotland and the BNZ.

The arrival of this US hedge fund has brought a new dynamic to the debt-laden media company.

It seems to have ended a standoff in the relationship between Ironbridge Capital, which had controlled the company, and TPG, which had sought a back-door takeover by buying debt.

Now all three are working towards a restructuring of the firm.

The good news is that discounted purchases of debt and debt writeoffs have eased intense pressure on MediaWorks, which was weighed down by interest payments on excessive debt.

The expectation is that MediaWorks will be restructured further, with one source saying there could be a further $150 million writeoff of debt.

TPG had paid CBA Bank 70c in the dollar for MediaWorks debt and Oaktree is rumoured to have paid 50c in the dollar for debt.

THE PLAYERS
Who controls MediaWorks?
* Ironbridge Capital: Paid a big price for MediaWorks in a highly leveraged 2007 buyout.
* Texas Pacific Group: Tried for a back-door takeover of MediaWorks, but fell short.
* Oaktree Capital Management: Late entrant in the pursuit of MediaWorks, bought $125 million of debt.
* Remaining banks: Royal Bank of Scotland, Rabobank and Westpac still have debt.

- NZ Herald

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