News Corp sells another asset to fund expansion

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SYDNEY -- Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation has sold its entire 40% holding in the PMP Communications Ltd printing and publishing group to a number of local financial institutions at around $2.40 a share after the Australian Stock Exchange closed July 8, compared with the closing market price of $2.72.

NewsCorp did not name the buyers in its announcement to the Stock Exchange July 9. Buyers need not disclose their holdings until they reach 5%. On the exchange, investors initially pushed PMP shares 5c higher, before the price slumped to $2.34.

PMP shares have performed strongly in recent weeks, fueled by speculation that the Chicago-based printer RR Donnelly and Sons was lifting its 2% holding in PMP, despite the company's warning that earnings would drop about 20% this financial year because of difficulties in the magazine market. Donnelly has denied it is a buyer.

NewsCorp's asking price would fetch about $245m, lifting to about $465m the amount it has raised through sales of assets during the past month to fund future expansion.

Analysts said July 9 that NewsCorp had already received strong dividend income from PMP and so a write-down of its discounted price offer might not be necessary. PMP, formerly Pacific Magazines and Printing, produces and prints NewsCorp's major magazines in Australia, including TV Week and a leading women's weekly, New Idea.

Copyright July 1997, Crain Communications Inc.

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