Seven Seeks Approval to Bid for Consolidated, Regulator Says

Seven Group Holdings Ltd., the company controlled by billionaire Kerry Stokes, is seeking permission to buy more shares in Consolidated Media Holdings Ltd. or make a bid, Australia’s antitrust regulator said.

Seven, which owns 24 percent of Consolidated Media, is “actively considering acquiring further shares” and has sought a review of a proposal to buy the rest, the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission said on its website.

News Corp. said June 20 it offered to buy Consolidated Media for A$2 billion ($2 billion) to double its stake in Foxtel, Australia’s biggest pay television operator. The deal would give the media company controlled by Rupert Murdoch 50 percent of the Foxtel pay television network and full ownership of the Fox Sports business in Australia with broadcast rights to the most popular games of Australian Football League and National Rugby League.

Simon Francis, a spokesman for Seven, declined to comment.

Billionaire James Packer, who controls Consolidated Media with a 50 percent stake, has backed Murdoch’s A$3.50 a share bid in the absence of a higher offer. Seven said June 20 it was reviewing News Corp.’s proposal.

Stokes owns 67 percent of Seven Group which in turn controls Seven West Media Group Ltd., owner of Australia’s most watched free-to-air television network, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Consolidated Media and News Corp. each own 25 percent of Foxtel, while Telstra Corp., the nation’s biggest phone company, holds the remaining 50 percent stake.

Consolidated Media shares fell 0.9 percent to A$3.37 at the close of trading in Sydney today.