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PBL near sale of Nine stake

Co. poised for media selloff

SYDNEY — Shares in Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. (PBL), owner of Nine Network, were suspended this morning amid reports that PBL is set to sell half of its flagship web and additional media assets to private equity investors.

PBL values the group’s media division, which includes the Nine Network, ACP magazines division, a 25% stake in feevee provider Foxtel and its Internet joint venture ninemsn, at A$7.5 billion ($5.6 billion).

Deal would be a shrewd move for James Packer, allowing him to retain control of the media assets while freeing up $2.8 billion in capital to pursue his interests in the gambling sector, such as Melbourne’s Crown casino. PBL owns a string of casinos and is building a mega-complex in Macau.

Nine was previously the flagship asset of PBL, but with weaker ad revenues and the onset of new media the gaming division has recently been the most profitable.

Move has been made possible by changes in Oz’s media laws, which passed the Senate earlier this week, the final hurdle before becoming law. The PBL media spinoff company is expected to use foreign coin while the new entity will also seek further media investment opportunities once the media laws are finalized.

The company has requested a trading halt until Thursday morning or until it makes a detailed announcement.

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