MIDDAY UPDATE: Fairfax cashes out of Trade Me

By Paul McBeth

Dec. 17 (BusinessDesk) - Australian publishing group Fairfax Media is looking at a $1.5 billion payday as it sells half of local online auction site Trade Me today.

The A$3.05 sale price represents a 5.3 percent discount to the A$3.22 closing price on the ASX on Friday. The dual-listed shares closed at $4.05 in New Zealand on Friday. Trade Me stock is rated an average 'hold' based on eight analyst recommendations compiled by Reuters, with a median target price of $4.10.

The latest tranche of Fairfax's exit will mean the media group will have pulled out some $1.5 billion since last year's partial float and subsequent sell-down and also through saddling Trade Me with $166 million of debt. That doesn't include the $220 million dividend Fairfax extracted in 2011 to cancel related party debt owed to the auction site.

The sale is seen as a move to pay down Fairfax's mounting debt as it overhauls its business away from printing presses and into the digital world, and is part of a shift away from indebtedness after Rupert Murdoch said the publishing arm of his media empire will be debt-free after the News Corp demerger.

NZ Post sells Datacom stake to Cullen Fund for $124 mln

Ailing state-owned mail service New Zealand Post has sold its 35 percent stake in local IT services group Datacom to the New Zealand Superannuation Fund for $124 million.

The deal will see the state-owned enterprise book a $76.4 million gain from the sale as it tries to get its books in order amid dwindling demand for its traditional postal services.

NZ Post boss Brian Roche said the sale of shares in Datacom “is a move out of necessity given other capital priorities” within the group.

The funds will be used to restructure the group’s debt position and fund strategic investments, he said.

Heartland shares rally on successful banking licence application

Shares in Heartland New Zealand rallied 3 percent to 69 cents today after the Reserve Bank signed off on the lender's application to become a bank.

Securing a banking licence has been a key plank of Heartland’s strategy in a shift away from a new regulatory regime that imposed stricter conditions on non-bank financial institutions.

“Heartland, as a bank, needs to retain the advantages of being small: local and accessible, at all times seeking to be innovative,” chief executive Jeff Greenslade said in a statement.

Brierley still letting go of GPG shares

Veteran corporate raider Ron Brierley has continued to sell down his holding in Guinness Peat Group, offloading another A$2.38 million of shares.

Brierley sold 5 million shares at 47.5 Australian cents apiece, leaving him with 36.9 million shares, or 2.3 percent, of the investment company he took over in 1990, according to a regulatory notice.

He’s sold 15 million shares for some $8.78 million since he started selling down at the end of October.



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