DataRoom AM: Ten tunes out

Ten Network's management is taking a break from its program of assessing takeover bids, while workforce provider Skilled is still weighing the merits of a $600m-plus offer from rival Programmed Group.

Investors hoping for a swift conclusion to Ten Network takeover talks are likely to be let down as the media group takes a break from assessing the offers in front of it.

Elsewhere, Skilled Group continues to weigh a takeover bid from Programmed Group, local investors eye a slice of a key piece of New Zealand infrastructure and Fife Capital calms hopes for the creation of an $800 million industrial fund.

The auction of Ten Network is unlikely to resume for a fortnight as the media group’s independent directors enjoy a break from assessing the proposals put forward late last year, according to The Australian Financial Review. A joint venture between Discovery Communications and Foxtel remains the frontrunner should a deal proceed, though Anchorage Capital, Silver Eagle and Saban Capital are also reportedly still in the running.

Ten stock is currently holding at around 22 cents a share, just below the 23c a share bid from the Discovery-Foxtel consortium, with investor optimism rising off a very low base thanks to a strong ratings performance from Big Bash League cricket over the summer.

Meanwhile, the proposed $600m-plus merger of workforce and service providers Skilled Group and Programmed Group remains on the table despite Skilled’s insistence the proposal from Programmed on December 17 was “opportunistic”. Skilled has since pushed forward the commencement date of new CEO Angus McKay to allow for further analysis of the offer, with the AFR reporting the return of a $70m franking balance to Skilled shareholders could be the key to any deal.

However, an agreement doesn’t appear imminent given the two firms have allegedly not spoken since Christmas.

In infrastructure, local players are again looking breathlessly across the Tasman amid hopes a significant chunk of the Christchurch International Airport will go on sale. The Christchurch council, which owns 75 per cent of the airport, has already said 9 per cent will be hived off, but Australian infrastructure investors are pushing for a larger stake in the $1.5 billion airport to be sold, the AFR has reported. A dual-listing on the NZX and ASX could also be on the agenda.

In property, a potential merger to create an $800m fund has been put to bed for now after Australian Industrial REIT fund manager Fife Capital rejected an all-scrip takeover from 360 Capital Industrial Fund. A bid from 360 Capital was announced in mid-December and the firm is expected to still take the offer to shareholders despite the snub from Fife.

Elsewhere, private equity firm Catalyst Investment Managers is waiting on the end of the sales season before hiring advisors on a float of Adairs Retail Group. The AFR has reported a valuation of around $300m for the company as it prepares to hit ASX boards in the first half of 2015.

Finally, ASX-listed e-commerce group Ensogo has drawn interest from turnaround specialists, with several firms seen eyeing a significant stake in the group in the wake of a sharp drop in its share price from 68c last March to 12c.

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