Hedge fund backers of Nine float may pull out, investors warned

The owner of free-to-air station Channel Nine says it will consider acquiring other companies if Australia's audience-reach laws change in the future.

The owner of free-to-air station Channel Nine says it will consider acquiring other companies if Australia's audience-reach laws change in the future.

But it has also warned investors who are keen to participate in its coming sharemarket float that its major financial backers - the US hedge funds Apollo Global Management and Oaktree Capital Group - may want to sell their remaining stake from the middle of next year.

If that were to happen, the company's share price might take a hit.

Nine Entertainment Company (NEC), the owner of Channel Nine, has been preparing to float on the stock exchange for months.

The group plans to list on December 6 with a market capitalisation of up to $2.2 billion after selling 304.7 million shares at $2.05 to $2.35 each.

A prospectus for the float was issued last Monday and potential retail investors have been gearing up for the initial public offer on Tuesday.

But on Friday, the media company lodged an amended prospectus with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. The amendments were made at the request of the corporate regulator.

Among the changes was information regarding Nine Entertainment's future growth strategy in light of possible changes to the law.

"NEC will consider specific merger and acquisition opportunities that arise having regard to the circumstances prevailing at that time," the new prospectus says.

"For example, in the event the 75 per cent audience-reach rule is materially amended or removed, the free-to-air TV industry could potentially experience consolidation. In that event, Nine Network would consider all of its options in light of market conditions and the actions of its competitors ... which may potentially involve NEC engaging in a merger or undertaking acquisitions."

A Nine spokesman said the amendments were made in response to questions raised by ASIC "in the ordinary course of ASIC's review of the prospectus" and they "did not consider the changes material."

New information regarding possible merger and acquisition activity "was made in response to a query raised by ASIC having regard to the media speculation on this topic," the spokesman said.

The warning about a possible impact on the share price - when Apollo and Oaktree may choose to sell their remaining stake in the company after the publication of NEC's full year results on 30 June 2014 - was given more prominence.

"It was repeated in the earlier section of the prospectus to give it more prominence as requested by ASIC," the spokesman said.

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