Move on Fairfax may be underway, as shares climb

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Reports suggest US private equity firm TPG may have taken its holding in Fairfax Media close to the five per cent allowed without foreign investment approval.

Shares in the Australian media company - which owns the Domain online real estate business - have risen strongly since Monday, and are at their highest level for six years.

GXpress reported almost three weeks ago that TPG was thought to be looking at the business, which could align with its Asian PropertyGuru site - used by more than 11 million property buyers across Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand - and US-based RentPath. The giant TPG also has investments in Spotify, Uber, Airbnb and Cirque de Soleil.

Fairfax's Australian Financial Review newspaper said TPG was believed to have amassed shares in the company and was "weighing whether to make a full bid". The AFR's Street Talk column had reported that TPG was lining up financing and co-investors to table a bid as early as this week.

Shares rose 7.5 per cent this morning before falling back slightly.

Domain is considered by far the most valuable asset in Fairfax's $2.5 billion market capitalisation, which compares with the $8 billion valuation of competitor REA Group, which is controlled by rival News Corp.

Fairfax has already started looking at spinning off Domain from its unfashionable newsmedia assets, but some observers believe that the possibility of a fall in the overheated property market adds urgency to a "buy and flip" strategy, and that a buyer is likely to close, sell or merge print-based publishing businesses. Fairfax has been waiting for close to a year to hear whether it can sell its New Zealand business to APN News & Media spin-off NZME. A decision from the NZ Commerce Commission, most recently set for April 11, has been further moved to May 2.

• Reports on Thursday say TPG had been talking to both Seven West and Nine Entertainment about possible disposal of unwanted Fairfax Media assets. Last week the News-owned Australian reported that other PE groups "such as Platinum, Cerberus and Fortress" had been approached about taking on the group's regional business.

Meanwhile Fairfax NZ is cutting its afternoon daily Marlborough Express to a triweekly - published on Monday, Wednesday and Friday - while the Saturday Express is unaffected. Fairfax NX executive editor, Sinead Boucher, says that the decision to retreat from daily printing "was not taken lightly". A daily e-newsletter will be sent to subscribers on weekdays, and news published through Stuff.com.nz and social site Neighbourly.

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