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Australian Court Gives Approval for Mega Merger of Nine and Fairfax

An Australian federal court has approved the merger of Nine Entertainment and Fairfax Media, which would create Australia’s largest media conglomerate. The decision is the last stage of regulatory approval, but it could still be challenged.

The court in Sydney ruled Tuesday on Nine’s takeover of Fairfax in a deal being billed as a merger. Presiding Justice Judith Gleeson said she would publish her reasons later.

The deal, which gives Nine shareholders 51.1% of the enlarged company, had already been approved by Australian competition regulators and by shareholders. With the federal court approval, the merger is expected to take place on Dec. 9, and the new single company will begin operating from Dec. 10.

The court heard arguments from Anthony Catalano, former CEO of real estate website Domain.com and 1% owner of Fairfax, that he had not been properly heard at a recent company meeting. Catalano said he was proposing a better offer to Fairfax shareholders, notably because the value of Nine shares had dropped since the merger was proposed.

Nine’s lawyers argued that Catalano had not made an offer that shareholders could vote on. Gleeson said there was no point delaying her approval “in circumstances where the board had identified they had no intention of appointing him to the Fairfax board.” However, the possibility of appealing against her decision remains open until Dec. 7.

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