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News Corp, Macquarie Not Interested in Ten Sale

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. and Australian publisher John Fairfax Holdings said Friday they did not plan to lodge bids in the auction of Australian broadcaster Ten Network Holdings.

Australia's Macquarie Media Group, an offshoot of Macquarie Bank, was also not interested in buying Ten, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters.

Private equity firms were still expected to bid, however.

Canada's CanWest Global Communications had asked interested buyers to submit indicative bids for its 56.4% stake in Ten, Australia's third-biggest TV broadcaster, by Friday.

Ten has a market capitalization of A$1.3 billion (US$1.02 billion), based on its shares on issue and excluding the CanWest stake. Analysts had previously tipped Macquarie, News Corp and Fairfax as likely bidders.

"It is too expensive," a News Ltd spokesman told Reuters, reiterating remarks Murdoch made last year that Australian free-to-air networks were expensive relative to other local media assets. A Fairfax spokesman also ruled out a bid.

An information memorandum was issued to potential buyers about four weeks ago. The wheels for a sale were set in motion last month when Ten announced it would help CanWest study selling its stake.

Ten said on Dec. 7 that CanWest had agreed that if its stake was sold the buyer would make the same offer for the remaining 43% of the company. CanWest is under no obligation to sell at this stage.

Sources told Reuters last month there was a wide range of interest in the stake, particularly from private equity. The broadcaster was once seen as off-limits to buyers but new Australian
media ownership laws due to come into force this year have triggered a wave of consolidation in the sector.

CanWest, which has a 14.5% voting interest in Ten, has retained Citgroup Global Markets, while Australian investment advisory firm Gresham is acting for Ten.