DataRoom AM: Fairfax folly?

Speculation about a merger between Fairfax Media and Ten Network is tempered by regulatory concerns, while Macquarie Group appears to have blocked any impending sale of BrisConnections’ $2bn Airport Link.

Speculation on the standalone future of Ten Network ignited on Friday and has refused to die down since, with the latest reports hinting at interest from Fairfax Media.

Elsewhere, an imminent auction of BrisConnection’s Airport Link toll road appears a longshot, oOh!Media officially joins the IPO pipeline, investors wait patiently for today’s release of the Medibank Private prospectus and GE gets a nibble for its WA power plant.

The leaders of Fairfax Media and Ten Network have reportedly held discussions on the possibility of a $2.4 billion merger amid speculation Fairfax could launch a bid for the embattled TV network. However, the number of hurdles to clear make a deal unlikely.

Among the issues are media rules that would require Fairfax to ditch its radio assets and the potential suitor’s close relationship with Nine Entertainment, which has seen the two team up on a video-on-demand service. The rumours follow talk at the end of last week that Anchorage Capital had contacted Providence Equity Partners about teaming up on a play for Ten.

Meanwhile, the on-again, off-again sale of BrisConnections’ $2bn Airport Link toll road in Brisbane appears to be a no-go after lead debt holder Macquarie Bank lifted its stake in BrisConnections through the purchase of $100m of debt on Friday. According to The Australian Financial Review, the deal will allow Macquarie -- which has pushed for a delay to an auction -- a stake large enough to block any sale plans.

In the IPO market, a listing of oOh!Media has been all but confirmed after owner Champ Private Equity was unable to find a suitable trade buyer, according to the AFR. Champ received offers from Providence and The Carlyle Group, but it’s hopeful a $450m float will be the more lucrative move. Key to the deal will be the success of rival APN Outdoor’s listing on November 13.

However, expect both of those floats to fade into the background despite their relatively large size, as all eyes turn to Medibank Private. The government-owned private health insurer will release a long-awaited prospectus today amid hopes to raise $5bn before Christmas.

Also in the IPO market, plans to float dental chain Pacific Smiles will ramp up this week, the AFR reports, with fund manager interest to be tested ahead of a $200m listing before the end of November, while the Ingham family’s holiday parks IPO remains on the cards in 2014 despite struggles to find a cornerstone investor.

In energy, GE’s $1.2bn Worsley Alumina power plant in WA has found a suitor in the form of Infrastructure Capital Group, a firm backed by AFL chairman Mike Fitzpatrick. It won’t be alone in the race, however, with at least one other unnamed firm believed interested.

In finance, Lonsec is reportedly chasing the research arm of troubled financial services firm van Eyk. The speculation precedes a meeting of creditors where administrators are tipped to recommend the liquidation of van Eyk.

Elsewhere, taxi booking and payments app goCatch has received a boost after wealthy families the Kahlbetzers and Millners supported a $4.5m capital raising, along with Square Peg, the venture capital firm supported by James Packer and Paul Bassat. The deal values the upstart at about $19m, the AFR reported.

Finally, Virgin Australia has announced a deal to pay a token sum of $1 to Tiger Airways Holdings to secure the 40 per cent of Tiger Australia it did not already own, while Orbis Gold has postponed a shareholder vote on a planned capital raising as it continues to move forward on takeover talks with a number of suitors.

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