The on-again, off-again merger of Fairfax Media’s radio assets with Macquarie Radio Network could be sealed before Christmas, but given the history of the two firms a dose of scepticism seems appropriate.
Elsewhere, the NSW government pulls a surprise in detailing its asset sales plan, AMP comes out on top in the race for the Royal North Shore Hospital and Stockland edges closer to a purchase of Leighton Properties.
Macquarie Radio Network and Fairfax Media have long talked up the benefits of a tie-up of their radio assets, but for years promising talks have ended up breaking down amid a blaze of unfriendly commentary from leading execs. But reports suggest this time might, just might, be different as a $200 million merger nears a pre-Christmas green light from both boards.
It comes as Fairfax also looks to hive off its Perth radio station 96FM to APN News & Media’s Australian Radio Network and tries to secure full control of Metro Media Publishing for $75m. All three deals could be sealed by year’s end and have led to speculation it is a clearing of the decks on the path to a merger with either Ten Network or Nine Entertainment. However, it is very hard to foresee a deal with Ten or Nine unless Fairfax puts forward a generous offer.
In infrastructure, the NSW government has enhanced the allure of the state’s round of power privatisations, offering controlling stakes of 100 per cent in TransGrid and 50.4 per cent in AusGrid and Endeavour Energy through 99-year leases, with the latter two also IPO candidates.
The news flies in the face of expectations the state government would seek to retain a controlling 51 per cent holding through an auction and should trigger higher bids than first expected from the bevy of super funds, trade buyers and sovereign funds chasing a piece of the action. The sales are currently budgeted to raise $13 billion.
Meanwhile, AMP has won the scrap for control of the RBS-backed Royal North Shore Hospital in Sydney, according to The Australian Financial Review. AMP edged out John Laing, Palisade Investment Partners and InfraRed Capital on the deal, which likely went above the $1bn mark.
In property, Leighton’s positive December could be about to get better amid talk Stockland will soon declare a deal to buy Leighton Properties for between $200m and $400m. It follows Leighton’s $1.15bn divestment of John Holland and $700m sale of half of its services division.
In tech, WiseTech Global is chasing $50m to help fund acquisitions ahead of a potential $1bn IPO next year, the AFR reports. The plan to beef up the business before a listing will likely push its ASX debut back until at least the fourth quarter of 2015.
Elsewhere, the ACCC has surprisingly given approval for a proposed merger of the east coast brick operations of CSR and Boral. The deal is seen as a knockout blow to private equity plans to buy Boral’s building products division -- which includes bricks, timber and roof tiles, but could reignite the prospect of a west coast brick JV between Boral and Brickworks.
Finally, streaming service Quickflix has raised $650,000 in a capital raising, well short of the $5.7m sought, while jeweller Lovisa has enjoyed a strong debut on the ASX, jumping 7.5 per cent by close.
A positive session for a new entrant like Lovisa has been a rarity in recent weeks as float fatigue has set in, with Perpetual Equity Investment Company more in line with trends in losing 2.5 per cent on its first day of trade yesterday.