BusinessDesk report by Paul McBeth
Rupert Murdoch’s News Ltd is quitting its stake in the Auckland-based pay-TV operator Sky Network Television for $815.3 million through an underwritten placement to institutional investors at a 7.2 percent discount.
Sky TV’s shares were halted after News said it will sell its 44 percent stake in the New Zealand firm in a placement underwritten and managed by Deutsche Bank and Craigs Investment Partners, according to a statement to the stock exchange. The $4.80 price was later published in a substantial shareholder notice. The shares last traded at $5.17.
“It’s a reasonable discount without being overly generous – they don’t need to be in a market that has supply issues and a lot of demand,” said Grant Williamson, a director at Hamilton Hindin Greene. “It’s a very large placement for the market, and we’re seeing some selling stocks this morning to raise money for it.”
The NZX 50 index fell 1.1 percent to 4272.43 on turnover of $86.1 million.
Murdoch’s exit from the pay-TV firm comes four months after New Zealand’s billionaire Todd family sold its 11 percent stake for $218 million at $5.05 a share. That was a discount of 5.8 percent at the time. News took the cornerstone stake in Sky TV via a merger with Independent News Ltd in 2005.
“We and Sky have always enjoyed an excellent, arms-length working relationship and we expect this to continue,” News Corp president and chief operating officer Chase Carey said. “We do not anticipate any change to current arrangement regarding access to content and collaboration on technology.”
The sale comes as Sky TV’s local dominance in the pay-TV market comes under increased focus from the antitrust regulator with the Commerce Commission investigating the TV company’s content arrangements with internet service providers.
News Ltd regional director Michael Miller will resign from Sky TV’s board as a result of the sale.
The halt will be in place for up to two days to shift the stake.
The stock is rated an average ‘outperform’ based on nine analyst recommendations compiled by Reuters, with a median target price of $5.535.
Last week, the New Zealand pay-TV operator reported a 9 percent lift in first-half profit to $68.2 million, with a total subscriber base at 846,988.