Nine back in play with public float expected

Media company Nine Entertainment Co is expected to re-emerge as a public company by the end of the year, providing a fillip to investment banks as sharemarkets reach five-year highs and a potential boon to its hedge fund owners.

Media company Nine Entertainment Co is expected to re-emerge as a public company by the end of the year, providing a fillip to investment banks as sharemarkets reach five-year highs and a potential boon to its hedge fund owners.

Fresh from a near-death experience last year, Nine boss David Gyngell this month completed a roadshow in the US and is meeting local investors this week.

Fund manager Simon Marais, an investor in Fairfax Media, said it was too early to say whether he would be interested in buying a Nine Entertainment stake.

The listing is to be conducted by UBS, Morgan Stanley and Macquarie, and comes as Nine Entertainment readies to take control of Channel Nine Perth from media mogul Bruce Gordon.

Assets of Nine Entertainment Co include free-to-air TV station Nine Network, ticketing company Ticketek, Sydney stadium Allphones Arena and stakes in Sky News operator Australian News Channel. Former federal treasurer Peter Costello sits on its board.

Despite the sharemarket soaring, there has been a dearth of quality, large initial public offerings. And although Nine has cleaned up its once debt-laden balance sheet, investors are expected to zero in on free-to-air television's prospects in maintaining its share of the advertising wallet, and Nine's ability to narrow the gap with market leader Seven.

The Department of Communications this year paid $14.5 million to Channel 9 to help it acquire new equipment to move to digital news-gathering.

Billionaire James Packer sold most of Nine and its related assets to private equity firm CVC Asia Pacific for about $5 billion in cash and debt in 2007, before the financial crisis. CVC crystallised a loss of about $2 billion last year when it was forced to hand Nine to its creditors. US hedge funds Apollo and Oaktree now own 99.5 per cent.

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