In a reshaping of the content distribution media and network business Seven Network has launched a takeover bid for wireless broadband provider Unwired, fuelling speculation Seven could soon launch its own Foxtel-style network.
Unwired suspended its shares yesterday, sparking rumours 34.3% Seven owned broadband telephony company Engin was planning a takeover bid. Engin had been gradually upping its stake in Unwired over the past month to 19.8%.
But in a announcement today, Seven confirmed it was seeking a 100% off-market takeover of Unwired for cash consideration of up to 50c per share – a 76% premium.
The Unwired board, with the exception of Chris North who excused himself form consideration of the offer as he provides consulting services to Seven, have unanimously recommended shareholders accept the offer.
A Seven takeover would significantly boost the network’s digital media platform, giving it access to Australia’s largest allocation of WiMAX spectrum – covering 64% of the Australian population.
Announcing the bid, Kerry Stokes, chairman of Seven, said: “We’re acquiring a strong business and specturm that will build our company’s abilities to compete in new media technologies. Despite delays in certification of the technology to date, we belive in the potential of WiMAX as a mobile broadband solution and as an efficient platform for delivering content solutions in mulitcast and broadcast environments.”
The takeover has fuelled speculation among telecomunications specialists Seven could launch its own Foxtel-style cable pay TV network using the Unwired bandwidth along with its TiVo video recording system – set to be introduced to Australia next year.
In the Australian newspaper Andrew Colley wrote BBY senior media and telecommunications analyst Mark McDonnell said there was widespread expectation in the market that Unwired would announce a takeover offer: “It has to be something of considerable magnitude and importance to justify this, and the only thing that I can suggest is the likelihood of some sort of offer.”
Warren Chaisatien, managing director of telecommunications research specialist Telsyte, said a stagnated Unwired business was likely to attract offers from potential suitors. “I think there would be some ground-breaking development and most likely in the form of a merger or takeover by other larger companies that would bring other content or applications to the table,” Mr Chaisatien said.
Seven Group, which has taken a 34 per cent share of Engin, has about $2.6 billion in cash after selling half of its media assets – the Seven broadcasting network and Pacific Magazines – earlier this year.