After months of talk about Ten Network picking up major sporting rights, the broadcaster's new chief has put his money where his mouth is – a lot of it, too. Meanwhile, Billabong International investors are losing patience woos back an old suitor, while Fortescue talks to Aurizon in the Pilbara. Also, the biggest Stockland news may be yet to come.
Cricket Australia, Nine Network, Ten Network
The 2013-14 cricket season could be the first not to be broadcast by Nine in more than three decades, as Ten Network lobs a giant $500 million cash bid for broadcast rights for the next five years, according to The Australian Financial Review.
The newspaper says the offer, made to Cricket Australia this week, includes $50 million in contra advertising over the same period, and is not expected to make money for the free-to-air broadcaster.
Nine Network, as the incumbent, enjoys last bidder's rights, and so has four weeks to decide whether to match Ten's offer.
Tensions are already running high. Fairfax reports Cricket Australia has filed a writ against Nine regarding a dispute over the broadcast of domestic cricket.
Cricket Australia plans to argue Nine's bid is worth less because the broadcaster is refusing to screen domestic matches, other than the popular Twenty20 Big Bash League, due to their lower ratings.
Cricket Australia had been expected to reveal who won the rights in early June, but the court case could throw a spanner in the works.
Billabong International, Sycamore Partners
In a sales process that has stretched on over a year, it perhaps comes as no surprise that Billabong International has once again extended talks with a souring suitor.
Billabong has gone from a trading halt to a voluntary suspension as it continues negotiations with Sycamore Partners over its 60-cents-a-share bid – although there is speculation the offer may now have dropped to as low as 45 cents.
Some shareholders aren't waiting around. Franklin Resources yesterday revealed it had sold down its Billabong stake from 7.63 per cent to 6.61 per cent, and US pension fund manager Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association has also removed itself from the substantial shareholder list.
Remaining investors may find some solace in reports Billabong has resumed discussions with a previous bidder, a consortium comprising Altamont Capital and VF Corporation, which has already conducted due diligence after making an initial approach worth $1.10 per share in January.
The Australian reports representatives from Goldman Sachs, Billabong's advisor, have also travelled to the US this week in an effort to strike a deal.
Billabong, which last traded at 45.5 cents, is looking increasingly desperate.
Aurizon, Fortescue Metals Group
Fortescue Metals Group appears to have lured back a powerful bidder as it shortlists possible buyers for a stake its rail and port assets.
Aurizon, advised by Greenhill Australia, is said to be taking another look at The Pilbara Infrastructure as Fortescue indicates it may be willing to sell up to a 50 per cent stake in the unit, according to The Australian Financial Review.
The miner had previously planned to sell off about 30 per cent.
Fortescue chief executive Nev Power says the miner's shortlist of potential buyers includes sovereign wealth funds, infrastructure funds and industry players, although he won't offer names at this stage.
All indications are that a deal will be done by mid-year.
Stockland's new chief executive Mark Steinert has offered a peek at the company's strategy update, although the juiciest details may have been saved for Monday's official release.
In response to media reports yesterday, Steinert revealed Merrill Lynch's Simon Shakesheff has been hired to oversee Stockland's strategy as chief financial officer Tim Foster and residential property boss Mark Hunter leave the company.
Those details may be a little ho-hum, but on Monday readers can look forward to Steinert fleshing out rumours about a residential property sale to Melbourne super fund ISPT.
While the scale of the potential deal is unclear, ISPT did show its firepower when it purchased $400 million worth of Coles shopping centres last week.
This could be another big one.
Amid all the Rio Tinto dividend talk yesterday, chief executive Sam Walsh indicated investors will have to wait at least a little longer for any announcement about its sale of non-core assets.
Mr Walsh yesterday refused to say whether Rio Tinto had a specific target for how much it would raise from divestments this year or whether any significant sales would be announced by the end of the first half, according to The Australian Financial Review.
“But please be assured the moment we have something to announce we will,” he said.
Resmed may be on the acquisition path as the Sydney and New York-listed company considers what to do with its $US1 billion ($1.02 billion) cash pile.
David Stanton, a Sydney-based analyst at Nomura, reckons it could return some of this cash to shareholders, according to The Wall Street Journal. However, the analyst also raised the prospect of more bolt-on acquisitions.
Just last year Resmed bought data services firm Umbian for $US41 million.
Finally, China doesn't seem to have lost its taste for Australian wine. A Chinese investment firm has reportedly taken a strategic stake in Bleasdale at Langhorne Creek, one of South Australia's oldest wineries.
According to Fairfax, the winemaker's Asian distributor Monita, controlled by Hong Kong importers Charles Poon and Raymond Ran, has teamed up with South Australian family pastoral business AJ & PA McBride to buy a 10 per cent stake in Bleasdale.