Nine's IPO Xmas present

The Coalition win over the weekend has accelerated plans for refloat of Nine Network.

The biggest share market float in years, the Nine Network, is on schedule to be completed by mid-December.

Investment bank advisors to the company, including UBS, recently 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 billion, and a decision on the exact timing is imminent.

With an enterprise value of around $3.5 billion, the 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.

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.

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

While there has been great anticipation of a post election domestic market rally, much of the Coalition win was priced in months ago and an improved investment climate in the lead up to Christmas is more dependent on global factors, particularly the US Federal Reserve's tapering plans and Middle East unrest.

But the float advisers are keen to capitalise on any improvement in domestic investor confidence in the wake of the Coalition's weekend victory.

While Nine's fortunes have improved since CVC's forced departure, the American hedge funds are closely monitoring the currency movements. After purchasing the debt at a time when the Australian dollar was well above parity, it since has fallen 12% (see Adam Carr's Why our $US drop is done).

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