Fairfax has completed the sale of its 51 per cent stake in Trade Me, the online shopping site confirmed this evening.

Fairfax's move means it has no further business connection with Trade Me.

The company executed an underwriting agreement for the sale of 202.0 million Trade Me shares for A$616 million, with proceeds from the sale to be used to reduce Fairfax's net debt.

Fairfax bought Trade Me for NZ$750 million in 2006.


Trade Me chairman David Kirk said the sold shares had been placed with a broad range of institutions and that demand had been strong.

"The response shows Trade Me is well-regarded by the market and that investors are confident about the company's performance," he said. "The sell-down means there is a significant increase in the free float and liquidity of Trade Me shares, and ultimately that makes the company more investable."

Trade Me CEO Jon Macdonald said that "at an operational level it's business as usual for Trade Me" and that the sell-down would have no material impact on revenue or costs.

Fairfax-nominated director Greg Hywood has resigned from Trade Me's board to concentrate on his Fairfax duties.

Gail Hambly and Sam Morgan, the other Fairfax nominated directors, offered to resign from the board, but have agreed to stay after the existing independent directors asked them to remain on the board.

Shares in Trade Me have been on hold for most of today, but are expected to resume trading tomorrow.

Earlier today, funds management sources said Fairfax's 51 per cent stake in Trade Me was likely to end up with mostly foreign institutions.

"There is some concern in the market this morning that a very high proportion of this stock may go overseas," said one fund manager.

Fund managers said the stake was unlikely to end up with a single major player in the online shopping space.

"I'm sure that this (stake) would have been shopped around among potential `trade' buyers and it is interesting that no one has really put up their hands," he said.

"If there were other trade buyers, one would have thought that this would have been an opportunity," he said.

"But who knows what might happen a year or two down the track," he said.

Fund managers, still smarting from the high level of foreign ownership involved in the recent Fonterra offer, said there was concern that the bulk of the stake would go overseas.

- nzherald.co.nz