News Corp Australia has purchased 14.99 per cent of Australian publisher APN News and Media, as the Irish parent company INM and Baycliffe sold out today in a block trade of close to $300 million.
Baycliffe is an investment vehicle operated by Denis O’Brien, who formerly held a controlling stake in INM.
News purchased around 10.2 per cent in in APN today, adding to 4.8 per cent it already held.
Analysts see the News stake as a strategic investment, but it is still likely to be subject to a review by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.
APN has an extensive portfolio of radio, outdoor and regional print assets.
In a statement, APN chairman Peter Cosgrove said: “We thank INM for their support and guidance as a major strategic shareholder.
“This is a defining moment for APN that also reflects a new era. The successful sale of approximately 30.8 per cent of the company’s capital is a strong endorsement.”
In an internal memo to staff, CEO Michael Miller said there would be no change to the company’s direction as a result of News Corp’s investment.
“The strategic direction of the company in no way alters as a result of these shareholder changes.
“There is a significant business transformation under way at APN, and while the business has its own positive momentum, there are strategies in place to generate further growth,” Mr Miller wrote to staff.
INM owns a number of newspapers in Ireland and has been under the control of banks following a refinancing agreement in 2013.
The transaction would assist the company clear crucial debt loads.
News Corp Australia issued a statement after the purchase was announced to the Australian Securities Exchange. APN shares have been placed in a trading halt.
“APN has a high quality portfolio of … radio and outdoor media assets and small regional print interests,” News said in the statement.
“It is led by a quality management team that has successfully driven improvements in the performance of the business.”
News Corp Australia referred The Newspaper Works to its statement in response to questions.
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