Bidders ante up for Oz payTV

After six consecutive failures to finance a 5% deposit on bids, two Aussie satellite pay TV aspirants have finally come up with the money.From the high original bids totaling $ A389 million, the combined latest offers amount to only about half that: $ A214 million ($ 141.24 million). But according to some media and financial analysts, this is still too high a figure for the licenses.

UCOM — which in April bid $ A177 million and reneged — is now offering $ A 97 million ($ 65 million), while a new corporate structure, New Vision Telecommunications, has bid $ A117 million ($ 78.4 million) for the second license.

However, junior communications minister David Beddall admitted that the question of cross-ownership and interlocking directorships between the two companies will have to be unraveled before licenses can be issued.

“They have indicated that (the situation) will change as the ownership structure is finalized so as to conform to the Broadcasting Services Act and the Trade Practices Act,” he said.

In addition to the balance of the $ 141 million for the licenses, due in 75 days, both companies still need to raise some $ 200 million to $ 275 million to establish a satellite pay TV operation. But since NVT is planning to resell its license to other Australian and overseas media investors, and UCOM has convinced Beddall it can raise the necessary equity, the minister is said to be quietly confident that this time the license sale will go through.

Among the likely foreign investors are Time Warner and Continental Cablevision, both of which have maintained a close watch on the pay TV picture Down Under. Neither so far has committed to investment, but, according to industry sources, an announcement is imminent now that a deposit has been paid.

The Aussie pay TV saga has been a succession of embarrassments for the government since the tender process closed April 30. So far it has had to pay over $ 170,000 in legal fees to redress the cascade of bureaucratic bungles.

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