Oz’s Seven shares are suspended

Stokes may take media org off stock market

SYDNEY — Shares in the Seven Network were halted from trading Monday morning on speculation that owner Kerry Stokes is set to strike a deal with U.S. equity firm KKR to take take the media org off the stock market.

Rumors have surfaced that Stokes is ready to strike a deal similar to that of James Packer, who last month sold half of Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd.’s media interests to Blighty’s private equity firm CVC for A$4.5 billion ($3.4 billion).

Stokes, who owns a controlling 42% of Seven, likely would keep control of the new media org.

Seven was not commenting ahead of any announcement, but requested the stock exchange suspend shares in the group until Wednesday “pending the release of an announcement.”

Deal would create a similar company to PBL Media, a cash-rich media org with private equity backing that would be well positioned to take advantage of Oz’s new media rules.

Media groups have been quite active since the government changed laws governing cross-media and foreign ownership.

It was feared the laws would result in a spate of local mergers in the media sector, but instead overseas groups have made the early plays.

In addition to the PBL-CVC deal, Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. took a 7.5% stake in publisher John Fairfax Holdings in October. The laws take effect in early 2007.

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