Update: Seven may push ahead on Prime despite vote
Friday, December 20, 2019 11:37 am
Not withstanding a vote against it by "bullies" Bruce Gordon and Australian Community Media boss Antony Catalano, Seven looks set to push ahead with plans to acquire Prime.
As expected, this morning's vote went against the merger, 53.5 per cent of Prime shareholders voting against it.
The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that Prime chairman John Hartigan expects Seven to reveal it had taken a large stake in Prime later this afternoon, and would still seek a deal.
Former News Limited boss Hartigan - who retires from his Prime role today - also accused WIN TV boss Gordon and Catalano of behaving like bullies. He said 77 per cent of proxies received before the meeting supported the deal.
Earlier Australian regional broadcaster Prime had said was "consulting" with Seven West Media when it became clear that the two major shareholders would vote against their merger today.
Yesterday regulator the ACCC announced that would not oppose the merger. The ACCC would require Seven to divest the Spirit and RedFM radio networks in regional Western Australia to comply with broadcasting laws.
The merger plan - by way of a scheme of arrangement - was announced in October, but was opposed by Gordon and Catalano, who had voting power of 14.57 and 11.59 per cent respectively. A three-cents-a-share fully franked special dividend had been promised to Prime if the acquisition was approved this month.
Gordon said the merger "isn't good value for current shareholders", a view shared by Catalano although the two say they were acting separately. Both believe that 'one-in-a-market' and 'voices' laws - which restrict them from forming their own takeover bids - are out of date, but a further change in media ownership laws, needed to allow either ACM or WIN to buy Prime, was "unlikely near-term" according to communications minister Paul Fletcher
Gordon is the largest shareholder in Nine Entertainment, which now owns the former Fairfax Media businesses with the exception of ACM, which it sold to Catalano.
Pictured: Bruce Gordon and Antony Catalano