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APN appoints Deutsche Bank for strategic review of NZ assets

Wednesday 2nd May 2012

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APN New & Media, publisher of the New Zealand Herald, has appointed Deutsche Bank to undertake a strategic review of its media assets in New Zealand after receiving approaches from potential buyers.

Chief executive Brett Chenoweth told shareholders in Sydney the media group, which also owns a stake in The Radio Network, has started a review of its New Zealand media assets.

"In recent months, APN has identified a number of opportunities and at the same time received approaches in relation to potential transactions involving some or all of our New Zealand assets," Chenoweth said. "We have engaged Deutsche Bank to advise APN on various options available to maximise profitability and value for shareholders."

APN has been embroiled in the bitter shareholder dispute of its parent company, Independent News, where dissident investor Dennis O'Brien forced out former chairman Gavin O'Reilly, who stepped down last month. That ended the O'Reilly family's 40-year control of Ireland's biggest newspaper company. Independent News is APN's biggest shareholder, with 30 percent.

The company has also embarked on a "major rejuvenation" programme for its New Zealand media and publishing divisions, including turning the NZ Herald into a tabloid, integrating its web and print divisions, and aligning advertising across all of its assets.

It will ditch any remaining afternoon deliveries, such as the Hawkes Bay Today newspaper, to make better use of its national agency, APNZ.

"In New Zealand, and in publishing in particular, it has been a difficult start to 2012 and despite some improvement in March and a 3 percent reduction in publishing costs for the quarter, the business remains well below the prior year," Chenoweth said.

APN will be developing digital capabilities and expanding its portfolio of online ventures as its portfolio becomes "biased towards growth to rebuild our share price and value of our company," he said.

The media group took full control of group buying site GrabOne, which has 70 percent of the New Zealand market, and launched its digital retail advertising network, CC Media, in New Zealand this month.

"APN is also in advanced negotiations on a number of additional digital acquisitions and partnerships," he said.

Acting chairman Ted Harris told shareholders the "board is prepared to take whatever measures are necessary to position the company for future growth in this new media environment."

The dual-listed shares were unchanged at $1.07 on the NZX and 83.5 Australian cents on the ASX.

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