Nine pushing November float

A stronger sharemarket and a lift in the Australian dollar could see a Nine float as early as next November.

The Nine Network owners are understood to be contemplating an acceleration of the float process, with a possible November listing.

The recent strength of the Australian sharemarket, which last week hit post financial crisis highs, is understood to have encouraged UBS, one of the main advisors to the float, to push for an earlier listing date.

A temporarily stronger Australian dollar – following the US Federal Reserve's decision to delay tapering its $US85 billion a month stimulus program – has added to the attraction of an early float (see Brendon Lau's A private equity comeback).

While Nine's American hedge fund owners, Oaktree Capital and Apollo, are keen to exit their investment before the Australian dollar falls further, they are being urged to retain a significant equity stake and resist the temptation to simply cash out of the network.

The pair own 95.5% of Nine after snapping up the network's massive debts last year at a significant discount and forcing a debt for equity swap that left former owner, private equity group CVC Asia Pacific, nursing serious losses.

The debt was purchased at a time when the Australian dollar was well above parity, and the pair were eager to offload a sizeable chunk of the equity as the domestic currency fell below US90c to limit further currency losses. The recent rise back above US90c has delivered a welcome reprieve and added a sense of urgency to proceedings.

The investment bank advisors have sounded out institutional investor appetite here and in the US for the float of about one third of the company, valued at around $1 billon, and have been encouraged by the response.

Over the weekend, some key financial details from the prospectus were leaked, indicating revenues would be $100 million stronger in fiscal 2013 than last year, although higher programming costs would keep earnings before interest and tax flat.

With an enterprise value of around $3.5 billion, the float proceeds will be used to pay down at least some of the free to air television network's $1 billion debt which has ballooned following the recent purchase of the Adelaide and Perth networks from regional broadcaster WIN.

Nine has offloaded peripheral assets including its magazine publishing division, leaving the company as a pure play free to air television operator.

Want access to our latest research and new buy ideas?

Start a free 15 day trial and gain access to our research, recommendations and market-beating model portfolios.

Sign up for free

Related Articles