Southern Star to shop

Company aiming for top-10 list

SYDNEY — Major Aussie film and TV producer/distrib Southern Star is poised for a shopping spree worth up to A$20 million ($13 million).

Exec chairman Neil Balnaves told shareholders at their annual meeting Wednesday it was conducting due diligence on two overseas entities and one Australian company, and that an announcement on one acquisition “can be expected shortly.” He said acquisitions would be funded by debt and cash flow.

The group has been on the prowl to buy other companies for a year, since digesting its $15 million takeover of U.K. entertainment group Circle Communications. It was the second-highest bidder for TVNZ’s New Zealand Natural History Unit, losing out to 20th Century Fox.

“We plan to be in the top 10 distributors of English-speaking television programs in the world by the year 2000,” Balnaves reiterated. “With the advent of digital television and the continued growth of free-to-air and cable television, we believe the demand for English-speaking programming can only increase.

“At some point, the company will have to target North America,” he added, pointing to the pact between U.K. pubcaster BBC and America’s Discovery as one model for entry into the marketplace.

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