Nine spending spree continues ahead of December float
Nine Entertainment has continued its acquisition spree ahead of a public float in December, buying Microsoft's share of their digital joint venture, Mi9.
"From 1 November, [Nine Entertainment] will take control of Mi9," Nine chief executive David Gyngell said on Monday.
The deal will give Nine full control of its digital future for the first time since 1997 when the media group - controlled by Kerry Packer at that time - established the joint venture with Microsoft.
Mark Britt will continue as chief executive of Mi9, which will operate independently within Nine.
Microsoft will remain a partner with the business, meaning its advertising and technology will remain a part of Mi9. Mr Gyngell said the agreement allowed Nine to retain the key elements of an almost two-decade strategic partnership with Microsoft. While Nine did not put a figure on the Mi9 transaction, the asset is valued in its accounts at $211 million.
Nearly a year has passed since Nine was saved from financial collapse when its lenders agreed to convert debt totalling $3.2 billion into equity in Nine.
Nine's new shareholders are scheduled to meet next Monday to confirm key details of the float, including how much will be raised, at what price, and crucially, how much will be used to pay down debt, which now exceeds $1 billion.
Nine has run up a big bill in the lead-up to the float.
The media group spent $370 million earlier this year buying Channel Nine stations in Perth and Adelaide from its regional broadcast partner WIN. It gives Nine Entertainment a truly national network for the first time.
The group also fought off strong competition to acquire the rugby league and Test cricket rights as it closes in on Seven's rating lead. Nine paid a record $1.1 billion to broadcast the National Rugby League, and beat off Ten to buy the international cricket broadcast rights for $450 million.
The company has also improved its revenue line, increasing its affiliate fee from WIN from 32 per cent of the regional broadcaster's television revenue to 39 per cent. Nine is also attempting to increase advertising fees.