BREAKFAST DEALS: Ten talks

Ten Network finds an interested party for its outdoor advertising unit EYE Corp, while an upbeat Nine receives some offers for its events offshoots.

Ten Network has entered into exclusive discussions over the sale of its outdoor advertising business EYE Corp, but it’s apparently not with the suitor most likely. Elsewhere in media, Nine Entertainment isn’t getting the kind of pricetags it might have hoped for with its events business. Meanwhile, UCL has turned the tables on Minemakers with a very entertaining counter-offer, PMP’s mysterious suitor has finally been revealed and National Australia Bank’s reacquainted love with subordinated notes is taking off.

Ten Network, EYE Corp, oOh!media

Ten Network has reportedly entered into exclusive talks with private equity owned (and daftly named) oOh!media for the sale of its outdoor advertising business, EYE Corp. Ten made an announcement to the ASX that it was talking to one party only on Friday and media reports have since revealed that its date is with CHAMP Private Equity’s oOh!media.

It’s also been reported that the price being discussed is between $125 million and $150 million. This falls short of the $165 million valuation that Citi analyst Justin Diddams put on the business. However, Diddams came to that valuation after looking at the compelling reasons that APN News & Media, now no longer a bidder, had for securing the business.

APN formed an outdoor advertising joint venture with Quadrant Private Equity earlier this year by selling 50 per cent of its existing operations. The rationale was that APN had a greater incentive to pick up EYE Corp than anyone else, hence the higher valuation. The fact that they’re no longer in the bidder process means that they didn’t think a $150 million-plus bid was justifiable.

Nine Entertainment

While we’re on the tortured media sector, CVC Asia Pacific has some better stories to tell about Nine Entertainment thanks to the success of The Voice. But its initial attempts to raise money in the hope of fending off predatory US hedge funds snapping up Nine’s debt are not hitting the same high notes.

First bids are in for Nine’s events business, which includes Ticketek and Allphones Arena, and the results haven’t been quite as impressive as first hoped. Some reports had indicated that a final price of $600 million could be achieved. But The Australian Financial Review reports that a valuation closer to eight times the $50 million in expected earnings the business is set to generate, is probably more reasonable.

Still, the mood is positive over at Nine with The Voice giving the network a much needed ratings boost after a prolonged period of underperformance next to chief rival Seven Network. However, The Australian reports that "several Nine executives and personalities” say the television network is bracing itself for a new owner as the debt refinancing date for CVC’s $2.7 billion Nine pile hits in February.

The good times, it appears, will arrive just in time for the next owners.

UCL Resources, Minemakers

UCL Resources has cheekily turned the tables on suitor and junior minerals explorer Minemakers by launching a counter takeover offer. UCL, after strongly opposing a $24.4 million all-scrip takeover offer from its joint-venture partner, has come up with its own plan. UCL is offering one share plus 4.5 cents cash for every 1.6 Minemakers shares out there. The proposal values that predator/target at $51 million, or 20.8 cents a share.

The counter-offer does contain a bit of cash that could tempt some Minemakers shareholders. However, the board, advised by Azure Capital, is widely expected to reject the proposal. If that’s the case, it seems unlikely that either proposal will get up unless someone significant changes the scrip balance to better favour the target, or some cash is found.

PMP, TMA

At long last, the mystery bidder for printing company PMP has been revealed. The Australian Financial Review says ticketing and labelling company TMA is behind the proposal of 68 cents to 78 cents, valuing the target at up to $253 million. For three weeks PMP has remained silent about the identity of its suitor, telling the market only that it had picked up Gresham as its adviser.

While we might know the name of its interested party now, you’d have to say that the market is hardly confident that a deal will be done. The stock has sunk further from its post-offer news highs above 60 cents a share to 37 cents a pop. Considering that PMP was trading around 30 cents a share before the mystery bid dropped, that shows the speculators aren’t willing to put much weight on this proposal.

National Australia Bank

National Australia Bank has rekindled its love of subordinated notes in style. The Melbourne-based bank has doubled the size of the offer from $500 million to $1 billion and set the margin at 275 basis points above the bank bill rate. It’s the first time that NAB has issued a subordinated note since 1999 and follows the same move by ANZ Bank in March.

Indeed, ANZ also raised the size of its note issue. In fact it triple the proposal from $500 million to $1.5 billion. The difference here is that NAB has been able to set notes at 35 basis points beneath the ANZ issue. Now, ANZ had more to sell to it’s perhaps not surprising that the premium for shareholders is higher – to entice more to buy. However, the gap could also indicate that buyers are very keen on securing safe havens for their capital and NAB is only too happy to make more room.

CSR, Alesco Corporation

Building materials company CSR managing director Rob Snidel has apparently clarified comments he made last week about there being "all sorts of opportunities” for the company while refusing to rule out a rival bid for garage door maker Alesco Corporation. Speaking to ABC TV’s Inside Business, Snidel reiterated that there were many opportunities for acquisitions, but emphasised that, from his position, CSR is likely to be prudent with its cash and focus on organic growth.

Snidel was right not to rule out a run at Alesco to counter a $188 million offer from Dulux Group, which the target has rejected. You never say never. But unfortunately that rule allows business columnists, including this one, some room to hypothesise.

Wrapping up

British energy giant BP could put in bids for exploration permits for the Great Australian Bight, a sensitive environmental area, according to The Australian Financial Review. The newspaper says the federal government released four new areas for tender, three of which surround an existing area under BP’s control.

And in bourse news, the Asia Pacific Exchange (APX) is set to be ready for companies in Australia and Asia to go public as of next month. Speaking to The Australian, APX chairman and chief executive George Wang said the new exchange is speaking to five Australian companies valued at $100 million about floating on the new market.