One rather significant aspect missing from the thousands of words devoted yesterday to the Nine/Fairfax merger – what does this mean for New Zealand and Fairfax-owned Stuff?
Speaking to the press yesterday, Fairfax’s Australia-based chief executive Greg Hywood (a former journalist) made just one reference to Stuff, saying the challenges facing New Zealand were the same as those in Australia, and that consolidation was an equally relevant consideration in this market.
Fairfax has been chasing a merger with Herald publisher NZME since 2016, this is still subject to a Court of Appeal decision due later this year.
“Fairfax is a free agent in NZ and has other options in this market if the merger with NZME does not get up.”
Today’s Herald reports that the first clear reference to New Zealand came during the investor call yesterday, when First NZ Capital managing director Arie Dekker asked Hywood specific questions on what the deal meant for Stuff.
Even if the NZME-Stuff merger went ahead, Hywood noted that the original terms of the deal had lapsed and that a new agreement would have to be struck between the two media companies. What that might look like or how much it would be worth is anyone’s guess.
Hywood told Dekker there would be no immediate change.
“However, Fairfax is a free agent in NZ and has other options in this market if the merger [with NZME] does not get up or it decides there are better options,” Dekker said.
He told the Herald: “A successful merger with Nine, which has extensive news and entertainment assets, might see Fairfax look at other consolidation opportunities in the New Zealand market.” Dekker said.
An alternative possibility could see Stuff sliced away from the Australian business. “Would Newshub be interested in a merger?” asks Herald business writer Damien Venutto. “Would NZME be a buyer?”
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