APN News and Media said it has returned to profit in 2013 after suffering a huge loss in the previous year, and said it plans to spend A$246.5 million buying out its commercial radio partner Clear Channel.

Sydney-based APN, which publishes the New Zealand Herald, said it planned to go to full ownership of Australian Radio Network (ARN) and The Radio Network (TRN) from Clear Channel.

The purchase would be funded by a A$132 million fully underwritten non-renounceable entitlement offer, from A$60m in asset sales, and A$61 million in debt.

See an investor presentation on the deal here.


Stations in the network include NewstalkZB, Classic Hits, ZM, Radio Hauraki, Radio Sport, Coast, Flava, Hokonui and the Farming Show.

Speaking on NewstalkZB this morning, APN chief executive Michael Miller said one benefit of becoming 100 per cent owner of TRN was the ability to make quicker decisions around the business.

The opportunity to buy the Clear Channel stake at a good price was a good one. A single shareholder could work more closely with the TRN management team, said Miller.
He described Clear as "willing sellers". Its radio business was now purely in North America.

"It suited them and we jumped at the opportunity."

The ten-year license deal for the I Heart Radio digital platform meant APN was able to work with Clear over the next ten years and share its experiences and development in a hugely popular new way of communicating, said Miller.

APN said its net profit came to A$2.6 million compared with a loss of A$507.4m in 2012.

Before exceptional items, the net profit after tax came to A$59.5 million, up 10 per cent.

Miller said it was APN's best result in a number of years, with net profit and operating earnings growth at their their highest level since 2007 and 2005, respectively.

"The APN of today is in a far better position than it was a year ago," he said.

"The results reflect strong earnings growth in our radio businesses as they increased market share, a record result at (outdoor advertising provider) Adshel, an improved second half performance from our publishing businesses as cost saving benefits start to flow through and the impact of the sale of a number of non-core businesses," he said in a statement.

Net debt as at 31 December 2013 was A$436.9m.

APN went through a board-room shakeout and new chief executive appointment when major shareholders Independent News & Media and Allan Gray Australia baulked at a planned capital raising.

APN shares in Australia last traded at A44c, having gone through a A43c to A49.5c range over the last year.

Miller said APN had made considerable progress in its efforts to streamline operations and position the company for growth.

The sale of APN's wholly-owned New Zealand magazine titles to Bauer Media Group has received clearance from the New Zealand Commerce Commission and is expected to complete in March.

APNZ's Australian Regional Media (ARM), operating earnings were down 23 per cent at A$29.7m, with revenue down 13 per cent to A$217.0m.

New Zealand Media (NZM) had a better finish to 2013, delivering operating earnings growth of 2 per cent to $53.0m on a local currency basis.