?Has Fairfax stuffed Stuff??

It?s been all quiet in the six months since the Nine Entertainment Company took over Fairfax, owners of several daily newspapers in New Zealand, and media companies such as Stuff. But, as reported on Whaleoil recently, the new owners have perhaps begun to make their presence felt, finally issuing marching orders in Australia to the increasingly out-of-control Clementine Ford. This prompted Whaleoiler David George to wonder, ?Has this change of ownership affected the NZ operation – Stuff etc.??

At the time of the merger, Stuff were upbeat. After all, the deal was very much a lifeline to a company which, just a few months earlier, sold off 28 publications ? mostly dinky community and trade papers. Quote:

Stuff Limited’s Australian owner Fairfax Media has announced it will merge with Australian television company Nine.

The companies anticipated the deal?would be completed before the end of this year and would create a “leading independent media company”. End of quote.

Analysts were also cautiously optimistic. Quote:

Australian analyst Roger Colman, head of research firm CCZ Equities, did not believe the proposed merger of Fairfax and Nine would have any impact on Fairfax’s New Zealand business, Stuff Ltd, owner of Stuff, arguing both Fairfax and Nine would want to get out of New Zealand.

But media commentator and former Television New Zealand news head Bill Ralston speculated that the merged Nine and Fairfax business could acquire channel Three owner MediaWorks and combine that with Stuff Ltd.

“Nine has got the cash to do it. That would really revitalise Stuff and MediaWorks and create a media organisation with radio, print and TV,” he said. End of quote.

But how long will the optimism last? The new owners might be cashed-up, but they seem hardly likely to keep throwing money at leftist follies like The Age?s ?journalists? collective?. After all, the Nine board includes some pretty hard-headed folk like former Australian treasurer Peter Costello. Costello may have come from the socially ?wet? wing of the Liberals, but economically he is dry as toast.

Within a month or so of the merger, more pessimistic voices were emerging. Quote:

Speculation has been swirling around the future shape of the media industry on both sides of Tasman as traditional sources of advertising decline and audiences move online.

MediaWorks, which owns channel Three, warned in a submission released this week that the Government could be left as the only broadcaster in New Zealand if policy settings did not change.


Nine has opened the door to selling non-core Fairfax assets on an investor roadshow including the New Zealand business as part of its $4.06 billion merger with the 177-year-old publisher.

Sources said the free-to-air network?s chief executive, Hugh Marks, indicated he would be willing to offload the New Zealand unit, valued at $109 million, during a week of intensive presentations to sell investors on the valuation of the takeover and justify the takeover premium he is offering shareholders. Fairfax tried and failed to sell the New Zealand publishing business last year on competition grounds. End of quote.


But it looks like 2019 will be the crunch year for Nine?s NZ assets. Quote:

Anyone hoping that Nine Entertainment?s Fairfax publishing assets will be placed on offer this year could be disappointed, with the media group not expected to ramp up sale plans until next year.

The [Australian Community Media] division is one that has been earmarked for sale by Nine, along with the Fairfax New Zealand newspapers and news website, leaving Nine with The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review as the only newspaper assets that it would own.

Apparently, when TPG Capital was casting its eye over Fairfax Media last year, the private equity firm was more upbeat on the New Zealand arm of the publisher than on ACM. End of quote.


Tell ?im ?e?s dreamin?, as a great man once said. There are no non-core assets left for Stuff. They long ago nixed the print arm of the business ? outsourcing to A Newspaper of all places ? in order to go digital. Most Stuff local rags are gone or closing. They only have provincial mastheads left, and those wouldn?t gather much coin for Stuff.

They?ll never get the $100m pipe dream they?re chasing.