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Last Updated: Wednesday, 18 October 2006, 10:11 GMT 11:11 UK
Australian media set for shake-up
Sydney Morning Herald
Ownership of Australia's media industry is set for a turbulent period
Australia's media industry is set for a major reshuffle, after its parliament passed a law lifting restrictions on foreign ownership and mergers.

Two major deals took place within hours of the legislation being approved.

Media giant Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd said it would move its media assets into a joint venture with a private equity group.

At the same time, broadcaster Seven Network took a 14.9% stake in publisher West Australian Newspapers.

PBL stands to make A$4.5 billion ($3.4 billion; 1.8bn) from its deal, which sees CVC Asia Pacific take a half-share in the new media unit.

"The whole industry is in play now, it's been thrown wide open," said Jack Chemello, an analyst with fund manager BT Financial Group.

However, Australian Federal Communications Minister Helen Coonan said she had asked the industry regulator to check the two deals.

Asian casinos

The legislation should take effect from early next year.

It will allow foreigners to take control of Australian media companies and enable people to own two forms of media in one city.

PBL said it would use the money it was expecting to raise to expand its gaming interests worldwide.

"Over the last 12 months we've strongly indicated our desire to invest in new opportunities," said PBL executive chairman James Packer, son of legendary media mogul Kerry Packer, in a statement.

"The restructure will provide the capital and flexibility necessary for the company to achieve its ambition to expand its international gaming interests.

"A clear benefit of the restructure will be the quarantining of the gaming and media businesses."

PBL is expected to use the money to expand its gaming operations in Asia, where it is already developing three casinos in Macao and bidding for a licence in Singapore.

There is also speculation that it could make a move into Las Vegas, where the ageing casino strip is set for some massive investment.

"For PBL it releases cash at a time when there is a land-grab underway for gaming and entertainment assets around the world," Mr Packer said.


SEE ALSO
Media magnate Kerry Packer dies
27 Dec 05 |  Business
Tough times for Packer's TV arm
25 Aug 05 |  Business
Packer moves into Macau gambling
16 Nov 04 |  Business
'Super casino' plans scaled down
16 Nov 04 |  UK Politics
A bit of a gamble?
19 Oct 04 |  UK
Betfair races into Aussie market
22 Jul 04 |  Business

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