Media and mining mogul Kerry Stokes is considering making a bid for British broadcaster Channel 5, which tycoon Richard Desmond has put up for sale for $1.2 billion.
British banking sources said Mr Stokes expressed interest in the broadcaster in February when the sale process kicked off, and he may return with a firm offer this month. They said Mr Stokes, like many of the would-be buyers, did not believe Channel 5 was worth as much as $1.2bn after Mr Desmond paid just $185 million for the broadcaster of Big Brother in 2012.
The owner of the No 1-placed free-to-air broadcaster has identified Channel 5 as a way to offset subdued growth in the Australian media market.
The possibility of Mr Stokes expanding his conglomerate, Seven West Media, overseas raises the prospect of him going head to head with the Rupert Murdoch-controlled 21st Century Fox, which is understood to be mounting a joint bid through British satellite broadcaster BSkyB with American media company Discovery Communications. The 73-year old billionaire’s interest in acquiring a broadcast licence in a foreign market for the first time comes as Communication Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s prepares to change media-ownership laws.
Mr Stokes’s rivals have lobbied hard for a relaxation of the regulations, but his chief executive Tim Worner said he wanted to see the proposal in its entirety before adopting a hard position.
The Seven West Media chairman was in Asia yesterday as a member of a high-level delegation of business leaders led by Tony Abbott.
The group included gaming mogul James Packer. Mr Stokes will visit Japan and South Korea, while his son Ryan, a Seven executive, will attend the China leg of the tour.
Kerry Stokes is one of Australia’s most successful business moguls. He also has interests in property and construction equipment via the Seven Group.
He is a recipient of Australia’s highest civil honour, and last year was a nominee for Australian of the Year.
Mr Desmond has pulled off an impressive turnaround job at Channel 5, which until his arrival in 2012 had been a loss maker.