DataRoom AM: Nine's about-face

Nine Entertainment loses interest in WIN and Southern Cross in favour of online expansion, while NAB presses ahead with the sale of its life insurance operations.

Analysts have been tipping plenty of M&A action among regional TV networks should the ‘reach rule’ be scrapped, but the latest developments suggest takeovers are far from a fait accompli.

Elsewhere, Nine Entertainment weighs a sale of Ticketek, National Australia Bank presses forward with a sale of its life insurance operations and the Medibank Private IPO may raise more than the wildest early predictions.

Nine Entertainment boss David Gyngell has said his firm no longer harbours an interest in a purchase of either Southern Cross Austereo or regional affiliate WIN Corp as online provides a simpler way to expand its regional reach.

It’s an about-face for Nine, as it has lobbied hard for media reforms while making no secret of its interest in WIN and Southern Cross. And with Seven cautious on changes to media legislation and Ten focussed on survival, the news sharply reduces the prospect of takeovers of WIN, Southern Cross and Prime Media in the coming 12-24 months.

Nine, meanwhile, is potentially moving down the divestment path, weighing the sale of its Ticketek business and its rights to manage Sydney’s Allphones Arena. A deal could secure $360 million for the media group, with private equity and Ardent Leisure the most likely suitors. However, given the firm’s current focus on bringing major events to Australia -- which can be value-added through its ownership of Ticketek, the timing of the rumoured sale appears odd.

In finance, National Australia Bank has tapped Deloitte to crunch the numbers on its life insurance unit as it assesses the merits of a possible sale of the $1.4 billion division. According to The Australian Financial Review, NAB is mulling the prospects of a full or partial divestment, a joint venture and a reinsurance deal, with Japan’s Dai-ichi Life and Nippon Life among the most interested parties.

In the IPO market, Medibank Private is attracting the bulk of the attention as strong bidding from institutional investors led to the government lifting the valuation range from $4.3bn-$5.5bn up to $5.5bn-$6.3bn. A bookbuild closes today, with final pricing to be announced Tuesday.

The Medibank spotlight yesterday diverted attention from news of IPH’s debut, with the law firm formerly known as Spruson & Ferguson jumping almost 50 per cent and threatening to kickstart a flood of similar offerings.

In energy, TPG Capital is set to provide information on its planned sale of Alinta Energy to interested parties next week, according to the AFR. It is believed that an IPO is not on the agenda with TPG putting all its effort into a trade sale.

Meanwhile, the AFR reports that AMP Capital has called upon a third party to join its bidding consortium for BG Group’s $4bn gas pipeline assets in Queensland. China Investment Corporation is already working with AMP on an offer in a bid to stave off rival proposals from APA Group, Cheung Kong Infrastructure and IFM Investors. Finals offers are due next Friday.

Elsewhere, Treasury Wine Estates is nearing the end of a portfolio rationalisation process that will see several of its brands hived off. The winemaker may also pursue sale and leaseback deals on infrastructure assets to boost cashflow, the AFR reports, as investors continue to ponder the potential for a fresh takeover bid.

Finally, Orica has detailed plans to sell its non-mining chemicals business to Blackstone for $750m, while the AFR has reported that TPG’s debt raising for poultry producer Inghams is well oversubscribed as investment banks clamour for a seat at the table ahead of a possible 2015 float.