APN shares tumble after takeover fails

Sir Tony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media has failed to meet its own timetable for a takeover of Australian publisher APN, and the deal is off. For now, at least.

APN shares fell more than eight per cent following today’s announcement.

The company, which is Australia’s fourth largest media conglomerate, owns nzherald.co.nz, the New Zealand Herald, and several other newspapers in New Zealand, as well as a share of the country’s biggest radio group, The Radio Network.

INM already owns about 40 per cent of APN and had formed a consortium with the goal of taking full ownership.

APN is rumoured, along with rival Fairfax, to be a takeover target of Australian television broadcaster Seven Network.

Australian TV network could buy NZ publisher

There’s speculation that one of New Zealand’s two major newspaper chains – Fairfax or APN – could be sold to an even stronger media conglomerate thanks to forthcoming media deregulation in Australia.

The Sydney Morning Herald today quotes market analysts as saying Channel Seven could be ready to take a greater interest in newspapers.

A cashed-up Seven Network could target John Fairfax Holdings, West Australian Newspapers, APN News & Media or Austereo, stockbroking analysts said yesterday.

The speculation comes after Seven raised A$3.2 billion by selling a half share in its main television, magazine and online assets to US private equity firm Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.

Fairfax and APN are Australian-based companies with newspaper and internet properties in New Zealand.

APN, which is also part owner of New Zealand’s largest radio group, The Radio Network, is 41%-owned by Irish company Independent News & Media which itself wants to take a 100 per cent interest in the company.

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation last month bought 7.5% of Fairfax, owner of New Zealand’s most popular website Trade Me, in an attempt to thwart potential rivals.

Murdoch says Aussie broadband too slow

Seems I’m not the only one unhappy with their so-called “broadband”.

As reported in today’s Australian, Rupert Murdoch told News Corp shareholders yesterday that typical internet speeds in Australia of less than 1Mbps were “a disgrace”. He wants the Australian government and Telstra to spend A$10-12 billion to get 20Mbps connections available throughout the country:

…they do it in Japan, they do it in South Korea, we should be able to do it here. We are being left behind and we will pay for it.

O’Reilly aiming for all of APN?

And an update on the item below…

A report in the Australian says Sir Anthony O’Reilly’s Independent News & Media is aiming to take 100 per cent ownership of APN News & Media. APN owns nzherald.co.nz, the New Zealand Herald, and other media businesses in New Zealand and Australia. And INM owns 41 per cent of APN.

The Australian says:

INM is believed to have teamed up with private equity firms to bid for the outstanding shares in APN in a deal worth $3.8 billion. It is understood INM presented directors with a bid about  $6.00 a share, a sharp premium to yesterday’s $5.49 a share closing price.

The prices mentioned are Australian dollars.

Indonesian election rejuvenates Radio Australia

More than 100 million Indonesians went to the polls in June, voting in their country’s first free elections since 1944.

Even though it took several weeks to count the ballots, it was soon clear that voters had rejected the ruling Golkar Party which had been led by President Suharto until his resignation amid civil unrest last year.

From a field of 48 parties, voters in the world’s largest Muslim nation favoured a secular party, the Indonesian Democracy Party-Struggle (PDIP), lead by a woman, Megawati Sukarnoputri.

“This election was quite different from the ones before,” said Indonesian-born Juni Tampi, who has worked at Radio Australia for the past 14 years.

“In past elections, you knew Golkar would be the winner, so there was nothing exciting. But this one was more interesting because everyone was looking forward to see who the winner would be.”

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Live radio resurges in Australia

Just when it appeared automation would rule the airwaves, live radio is enjoying a minor resurgence in Australia, thanks in part to syndicated programming. The general manager of Sky Radio Network, Brendan Sheedy, said his company supplies at least some syndicated service to virtually all of Australia’s 160 commercial radio stations, and most of it is live. 

“We’re probably the biggest syndicator in Australia, and the only major player in the live format business,” said Sheedy. 

That’s impressive growth for the Sydney-based network that began just seven years ago.

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Equipment failure paralyzes Tuvalu radio

In the tiny Pacific nation of Tuvalu (formerly the Ellice Islands), Pusinelli Laafai is unhappy. Although he is the manager of Radio Tuvalu, Laafai is powerless to restore his country’s one-year-old FM network, which went off the air due to equipment failure at eight remote transmitter sites. 

“When we first switched from AM to satellite FM everyone was very happy with the quality,” said Laafai. “Then it all fell apart.”

At each transmitter site, the story is the same. A power supply module in the broadcast downlink receiver overheated in the tropical conditions. Even though the fault was identified before the project was completed in September last year, it still has not been fixed. 

The problem is not entirely technical, however. Geographic isolation, poor communication, and a lack of accountability have also played a part.

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Radio Australia to survive, but with reduced services

After months of uncertainty, Radio Australia has been promised enough money to stay on the air, but not enough to maintain all its services. The Australian government will cut funding to the international broadcaster from AUD$20.5 million annually to AUD$7.4 million for each of the next three years. Donald McDonald, chairman of the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), which runs Radio Australia, said the ABC will maintain “a significant broadcasting presence in the Asia-Pacific region” despite the cutbacks.

Transmissions to the Pacific in English and to nearby Papua New Guinea in Tok Pisin will continue, but programs to Asia in Bahasa Indonesian, Mandarin, Khmer and Vietnamese will be scaled back. Cantonese, Thai and French services will disappear.

Radio Australia (RA) will lose the most modern of its three short-wave transmitter sites, after having lost a fourth site last year.

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Radio Australia under threat

Radio Australia, the 58-year-old international service of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), has reacted vigorously to a suggestion that it be closed in order to save money. The suggestion was contained in a government-commissioned report on the state-owned ABC prepared by Bob Mansfield, a former chief executive in the telecommunications and newspaper industries. 

Mansfield received 10,615 submissions and made 19 recommendations in the report, which was presented to Australia’s Communications Minister, Senator Richard Alston, in January.

In response to the report, Radio Australia has carried numerous news stories containing negative reaction to the proposal, and has coordinated a protest campaign on the Internet. 

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