Peter Coleman: What if News got to buy Seven West...

Low media company valuations are boosting the prospect of merger and acquisitions action half a year after Australia's media law reform passed in September.

And among the possibilities being floated is the (for me at least) horror prospect of News buying Seven.

TV and magazine companies are doing it tough at the moment, and Seven West Media - which owns the Pacific Magazines business as well as West Australian Newspapers and the eponymous TV network - is both, with trading last week seeing its market capitalisation briefly below its debt.

Commentator Tim Burrowes, who sold his Mumbrella business at the year-end for a figure reported to be in the high single millions, hasn't lost his interest in scanning the financial reports. In a weekend piece, he shared a friend's "intriguing theory" that News Corp could be a buyer for Seven.

It's certainly clear that News has shown more and more interest in TV since it (or rather Lachlan Murdoch) missed the opportunity to buy the Ten Network from administration... and just when the law had been changed to make it possible. One sign has been the increasing investment in Sky, not just since it bought out partners Seven and Nine in 2016, but recently with a business hub at News' Holt Street headquarters.

Burrowes also suggests that putting News' NewsLifeMedia business and "SWM's basket case" Pacific Magazines together would create "a proper challenger to Bauer" in the magazine market.

Meanwhile, News has raised the pitch of its earlier "We're for (insert name of target market)" campaigns with new double-spreads across "all 30 News Corp metro and regional publications" in which editors espouse their commitment to (insert name of market). This time it's 'you'.

News Corp owning Seven West? I can't wait.

Surely the ACCC can't be that sleepy, but would need to be left unhindered to reach the right decision.

Peter Coleman

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