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Consolidated Media Deal Funding in Doubt

Trading in the shares of Australian publishing company Consolidated Media Holdings was halted on Thursday amid speculation funding for a buyout offer from a consortium backed by Lachlan Murdoch was in doubt.

The Australian Financial Review (AFR) reported on its Web site afr.com that Murdoch, son of media tycoon Rupert, may need to find a new partner to help finance the offer to buy Consolidated for A$3.3 billion (US$3 billion).

Consolidated last month opened its books to the consortium, which also includes gaming magnate and existing Consolidated shareholder James Packer.

Citing no sources, the AFR said that Lachlan's backer, U.S. investment house SPO Partners, was believed to be reconsidering its options, in part due to a strong Australian dollar. It added however that Murdoch was believed to be in talks with another private equity backer.

A spokesman for Illyria, Murdoch's private investment company, declined to comment.

A Consolidated spokeswoman declined to comment. It said in an earlier statement that it will make an announcement on the buyout before the start of share trading on Friday.

The AFR said Consolidated's board was expected to decide on Thursday whether to extend the four-week due diligence period.

Packer and Murdoch launched their buyout offer in January, less than three months after Packer separated his late father Kerry's media business from gaming to focus on building up the gambling operations.

Consolidated Media owns 25 percent of pay-TV provider Foxtel, about 27 percent of online job site Seek and 25 percent of Australian publisher PBL Media.