Co. expected to sell to the highest bidder

Oz exhib Hoyts has lost a potential suitor after West Australian Newspapers decided not to use its right to buy the half stake in the chain owned by James Packer’s Publishing & Broadcasting Ltd.

PBL is now free to auction its stake in Hoyts although the brand is damaged after WAN’s lack of interest and a week after WAN wrote down the value of its share to A$145 million ($123 million), only three years after paying $147 million for the stake.

WAN is expected to sell to the highest bidder, although the gap between buying and selling prices presently is believed to be vast.

PBL announced in May its own plans to sell its half stake in Hoyts as part of a divestment of non-core media assets.

WAN examined the offer but the pair could not meet on price, although there may be potential suitors, including a number of local and U.S. chains, in the $110.5 million to $136 million range.

Nevertheless, WAN still holds last right of refusal over any bids PBL receives for its stake and WAN chief executive Ken Steinke did not rule out acquiring Hoyts at the right price.

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