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Telstra said to be eying up “wildcard” Nine Entertainment for a buyout, sources say.

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The telco is said to have a swat team working on a possible deal to buy out Nine Entertainment with advisors Credit Suisse, reports The Australian.

But Telstra certainly has the funds to engage in such a deal, considering the NBN Co will be paying them $11 bn in total in the coming years.

However, a final deal is still a long way off, sources indicate.

But if Telstra did ultimately decide to make an offer for Nine and enter the free-to-air television market, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission could possibly force Telstra to sell its 50% stake in Foxtel.

Telstra said it expects a $2-3 billion “excess free cash” in the next three years and CEO David Thodey said it will be “focusing offering new products, as well as leveraging our rich set of assets.”

And coincidentially, Nine Entertainment has been valued at around $3bn.

Nine has a massive portfolio of media assets – everything from Channel Nine (one of the biggest free-to-air stations) Ticketek, Sky News, ACP magazines (publisher of Woman Weekly, Auto Trader, Cleo) and of course Nine MSN news site portal – also one of the most visited sites in Oz.

Telstra already has major interests in the media sector – including a 50% stake in Foxtel, BigPond and is in itself a major broadcaster of content online and TV content via T Box set-top boxes.

 

Nine, majority owned by CVC Asic Pacific, is heavily indebted – to the tune of about $3.8bn in all – and need to refinance $2.8bn by next year, meaning it could be very keen on a sale. And soon.

The competition watchdog, the ACCC, may also have significant concerns if the deal went ahead and could force Telstra to sell its lucrative 50% stake in Foxtel.

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