Fairfax Selling $651 Million Stake in Trade Me, AFR Reports

Fairfax Media Ltd., Australia’s second-largest newspaper company, is selling a stake in Trade Me Ltd. worth A$616 million ($651 million), the Australian Financial Review newspaper reported, without saying where it obtained the information.

The 202 million shares of Trade Me, the New Zealand online auction site, are being sold through UBS AG at about A$3.05 each, the newspaper said. Trade Me shares in Australia closed at A$3.22 on Dec. 14, the most recent closing price, and at NZ$4.05 ($3.43) in New Zealand that same day.

Brad Hatch, Sydney-based spokesman for Fairfax, declined to comment today in an e-mail when asked about the stake sale.

Fairfax has seen its share price fall 88 percent in the past five years as newspaper readers switched to the Internet and falling consumer spending eroded advertising sales.

The company’s shares slumped 29 percent this year after it posted a record annual A$2.73 billion loss and said in June it will cut 1,900 workers, close printing sites and introduce Internet subscriptions as it seeks to halt sliding revenue.

Fairfax earlier this year sold 59.4 million shares in Trade Me at the equivalent of NZ$3.46 each, reducing its stake to 51 percent from 66 percent, Wellington-based Trade Me said in a statement June 18.

Gina Rinehart, Asia’s richest woman, is Fairfax’s biggest shareholder, owning a 15 percent stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. She failed in June to get a seat on the board for herself after disagreeing on conditions including signing Fairfax’s Charter of Editorial Independence.

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