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CanWest pulls out of Kiwi holdings

Deal with HT Media still pending approval

TORONTO — CanWest Global Communications has inked a deal to sell its New Zealand media holdings to HT Media, a subsid of independent Australian private equity manager Ironbridge Capital. HT Media will pick up CanWest Global’s 70% share of CanWest MediaWorks NZ, whose Kiwi holdings include TV3, C4 and some radio properties. Deal is pending the approval of New Zealand’s Overseas Investment Office.

CanWest estimates its gross proceeds will be about C$314 million ($284 million).

“For CanWest, this transaction allows us to further our objective of reducing debt and redeploying capital consistent with our corporate strategy,” said Leonard Asper, prexy-CEO of the Winnipeg-based parent company. “By all financial and other measures, MWL has been an outstanding investment for the company over the last 15 years.”

CanWest announced that it was putting its Australian and New Zealand media holdings on the block in October. There has been no word of a buyer for Network Ten, and according to a research note from Toronto-based Westwind Partners analyst Ben Mogil (who has a buy on CanWest Global Communications), investors were getting antsy because the properties were taking so long to sell.

“While this is a smaller asset than Ten,” Mogil writes, “we believe that the announcement of this sale should get investors who are on the fence excited about the name again as it is clear that, while slow, the M&A train in the South Pacific is rolling along.”

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