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TPG Capital targets key parts of Fairfax

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/05/2017

One of the world's biggest private equity firms is believed to have made a fresh offer to struggling Australian media group Fairfax but not for New Zealand assets.

US-based TPG Capital has put forward a proposal to buy The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review along with Domain in a deal estimated to be worth about $A2.5 ($NZ2.6) billion, Fairfax reported on Sunday.

The offer from TPG, which bought a five per cent stake in the media company in March, comes after Fairfax announced plans last week to shed 125 jobs to help save $a30 million, prompting a week-long strike by its journalists.

"Left behind would be Fairfax's New Zealand business, which had been seeking to merge with fellow publishing group NZME, Fairfax's Australian regional newspaper unit, its stake in the Macquarie Media radio venture and a 50 per cent share of online streaming network Stan," the AFR reported.

Comment was being sought from Fairfax, which last Thursday revealed revenues from its news operations had dropped 11 per cent since Christmas.

The only Fairfax business units that managed to significantly lift revenue were Domain - up 10 per cent - and its digital businesses, up 18 per cent.

Fairfax has been planning to spin off Domain into a separate stock market listed entity later this year.

Last week, huge numbers of Fairfax journalists walked off the job for seven days in response to management's plans to slash a quarter of newsroom jobs.

The media group has been struggling for years with falling revenues as a result of a drop in income from advertisers and declining circulation figures.

TPG was reported in late March to be interested in making a play for Fairfax, but a spike in the media company's share price at the time apparently forced it to back away.

Speculation about TPG's latest offer to Fairfax comes a day after the federal government announced a range of changes to Australia's media laws, including long-awaited plans to scrap the two-out-of-three ownership rule that prevents a company controlling more than two of three radio, television and newspapers in one area.

The government also plans to axe the rule stopping a media proprietor from controlling a TV licence that reaches more than 75 per cent of the population.

If the proposed changes, which have been mooted for several years, are approved by parliament they are expected to open the way for consolidation within the media industry.

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