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Independent News Ups Bid for Australia's APN

A group led by Tony O'Reilly's Independent News and Media has raised its takeover offer for Australia's APN News and Media to almost A$3 billion (US$2.5 billion), APN said on Tuesday.

Dublin-based Independent and private equity partners Carlyle Group and Providence Equity Partners (PEP) upped their offer to A$6.20 per share from A$6.10 previously, APN said in a statement, adding that the latest offer price was final.

The new offer is Dublin-based Independent's fourth since October for APN, which owns newspapers in Australia and New Zealand and a string of radio stations.

The Australian firm's board agreed the previous bid on Feb. 12 but some institutional shareholders opposed the offer, saying it was too low.

The deal is the latest in a string of Australian takeover offers to meet shareholder resistance. Bidders for Qantas Airways last week lowered the level of acceptances needed for its bid to succeed after some shareholders said they opposed the offer.

The original deal valued APN at A$3.8 billion when including its debt and convertible notes. APN said the latest offer valued the firm at 13.1 times attributable 2006 earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA).

APN said in February that Independent, which publishes 175 newspaper and magazine titles across the globe, planned to reduce its stake in APN to 35% from 42%, while Carlyle will hold 27.5% and Providence 37.5%.

Tony O'Reilly is a former international rugby player and Ireland's best-known businessman. APN shares last traded on Monday at A$5.92 per share.

Analysts expect new Australian media laws, which came into force on April 4 and relax foreign ownership limits and allow cross-ownership of different forms of media in the same market, to trigger a wave of consolidation in the industry.