APN's Australian Regional Media produce 12 daily newspapers, more than 60 community news publications and more than 30 websites for regional Australia
APN's Australian Regional Media produce 12 daily newspapers, more than 60 community news publications and more than 30 websites for regional Australia

APN shareholder sells 30%, Rupert Murdoch buys half

APN News and Media has become the target of an overture by News Corp Australia, with the New York-based firm announcing its plan to take a 14.99% stake in the company.

The deal will make News Corp Australia the largest shareholder in APN, after the Irish-based Independent News and Media sold out in a trade worth almost $300 million.

The shareholders and interests related to INM's Denis O'Brien sold their 30.8 per cent interest in the company, which owns Australian Regional Media, publisher of this website and newspapers.

Market sources said INM sold 191.5 million APN shares and O'Brien's private investment vehicle, Baycliffe Holdings, sold 125.8 million shares.

APN had been trading recently at A94c, having climbed 52 % in the past 12 months, since former News executive Michael Miller became APN's chief executive.

The two sellers sold at $0.88 per share via a block trade.

It is understood that the stake is being marketed to institutions throughout Australia, New Zealand and Asia, through CS First Boston.

Prior to this deal, News Corp's stake in APN was closer to 4.8%.

News Corp Australia is thought to be considering the purchase as a strategic move, given APN's range of media interests.

APN publishes almost 20 daily and more than 80 non-daily newspapers, as well as more than 50 websites -- including this one -- across Australia and New Zealand.

Its reach extends to 1.5 million people each week via print, online and mobile.

It is also a leader in outdoor advertising through Australia and New Zealand, with a growing market share in Hong Kong.

APN also owns two large and successful radio businesses including the Australian Radio Network.

Its brands include the KIIS Network, Pure Gold Network, iHeartRadio, The Edge96.One and Mix106.3 Canberra, reaching more than 4 million listeners each week.

ARN ranks as the most popular stations in Sydney, Adelaide and Brisbane.

Chief Executive Michael Miller said the purchase would in no way change the strategic direction of the company.

He said INM had played an important role in the development and success of the company with its investment dating back to 1988, when INM purchased the Queensland regional media group, Provincial Newspapers, before listing it as APN on the ASX in 1992.

''There is a significant business transformation underway at APN, and while the business has its own positive momentum, there are strategies in place to generate further growth," he said.

''The Company continues to perform strongly."

In a statement to the ASX on Friday, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp described APN as having "a high quality portfolio of Australian and New Zealand radio and outdoor media assets and regional print interests".

News Corp also paid tribute to the quality of APN's management, and its ability to improve the company's performance.