NEWS Limited has won regulatory approval for its A$2 billion bid for the James Packer-controlled Consolidated Media Holdings – which would double its holding in Foxtel to 50 per cent.
Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims said a takeover would not “lead to any substantial lessening of competition in any relevant market”, given that News already owned a 25 per cent of Foxtel, and the right to appoint the chief executive.
However, there has been silence from Kerry Stokes’ Seven Group Holdings, which holds a 25.3 per cent parcel of CMH. The News bid needs the approval of Mr Stokes, who has sought ACCC clearance to bid for the CMH shares that he does not already own.
Seven has declined to comment, but the company is expected to wait until News files its formal bid or lodges it documents before declaring its hand. This also will give the ACCC time to clarify Seven’s position. The ACCC has asked Mr Stokes for more information, because of the competition implications of the free-to-air broadcaster obtaining a 25 per cent stake in Foxtel through CMH.
Mr Stokes is expected to use his ability to block the News bid to extract concessions from the publisher.