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APN sizes up bid for QMS
The Australian, Australia  by Bridget Carter Scott Murdoch
09 Mar 2017
Business News - page 20 - 409 words - ID 738602176 - Photo: No - Type: News Item - Size: 141.00cm2

APN News and Media is believed to be mulling a potential acquisition of QMS Media, with Credit Suisse understood to be on the ticket.

Both companies have declined to comment, but it is understood that the major shareholder and chief executive of QMS, Barclay Nettlefold, has been eager to shop the business around for some time and it has been widely known that APN would like to buy a billboard company, despite selling off its own APN Outdoor operation to private equity several years ago.

QMS listed two years ago and currently has a market value of $343 million, operating with sites in Australia, New Zealand and Indonesia.

The speculation about the takeover play comes as a $1.6 billion merger between APN Outdoor and oOh!Media is in the process of being finalised, subject to approval from the Australian Competition and Consumer division.

APN is said to have been a fierce opponent to that deal going through from a competition perspective, so some believe it is odd for the group to then turn around and plan its own outdoor advertising acquisition.

But should the oOh!Media and APN Outdoor merger receive the green light, sources say the group will have no choice but to embark on its own deal to take on what will be a far stronger competitor.

There are questions whether APN would be in financial shape to buy QMS, given that it already held two capital raisings and its share price is at an all-time low.

It has a $821m market value, which means an acquisition of QMS, likely to need about $400m for a sale, would be rather a major stretch for APN.

The company currently owns The Australian Radio Network and outdoor advertised Adshel, along with other digital assets.

Meanwhile, sources say Fairfax has two large private equity suitors running the ruler over the group, with TPG Capital now said to be embarking on detailed work surrounding a potential acquisition of the business. Fairfax, publisher of The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age and The Australian Financial Review, is known to be in play, with talks previously held with Nine and an announced spin-off of Domain.

Sources say that merger talks with Nine have stalled and a breakup plan of the business similar to that of The Australian publisher News Corp, which spun off its global print business into a separate vehicle, also remains an option and is being worked through with its adviser Macquarie Capital.

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