Perth TV Sale To PBL Stuck

By Glenn Dyer | More Articles by Glenn Dyer

PBL Media's first big spend of its multi-million dollar war chest looks like it will take a bit longer than previously thought and there are some indications the $136 million pencilled in for the purchase of struggling Perth affiliate STW 9 from Sunraysia TV might not happen.

That's only a small indication at the moment but the vendor, Sunraysia is facing problems.

It has been forced to disclose more information to shareholders, essentially the controlling interests associated with chairman, Eva Presser and her protagonist, WIN Corporation, which is controlled by billionaire Bruce Gordon and his family.

A NSW Supreme Court judgment this week forced Sunraysia to call off a meeting in Melbourne yesterday that was called to ratify the sale of STW 9 to PBL Media.

Sunraysia adjourned the shareholders meeting in Melbourne as the court ordered because of inadequate disclosure to shareholders about the sale, especially details of the transaction and the affiliation agreement between STW 9 and PBL media/Nine Network.

The meeting was postponed after Sunraysia directors challenged a legal representative linked to its 43.65 per cent shareholder, WIN Television, part of Gordon's Win Corporation.

People who attended the meeting said the media was stopped from entering the meeting which lasted only five minutes.

WIN won orders in the NSW Supreme Court to adjourn yesterday's meeting to approve the asset sale and force the release of more information from Sunraysia about the transaction.

Sunraysia said it has not received any other offers for Swan Television & Radio Broadcasters Pty Ltd, the Sunraysia TV that owns STW 9 and its licence.

The major stakeholder in Sunraysia Television is Sabtel Pty Ltd, which is controlled by the company's chairman and managing director Eva Presser. It holds 48.94 per cent. There are superfunds and family members who control some of the minority holdings which would give her more than 51 per cent and the ability to accept the PBL offer, regardless of the WIN attitude.

Sunraysia had to meet the costs of the action by WIN in the NSW Supreme Court, which it comprehensively lost.

For the board and major shareholder in Sunraysia, Eva Presser, it is a huge defeat and for James Packer and PBL Media, they've been hurt as well: the deal is still nowhere near likely to happen and could be frustrated.

WIN made its point that the information provided to shareholders for today's meeting was so deficient and disclosed so little that it should be put aside and Sunraysia forced to issue more detailed documentation for a new meeting.

Justice Bob Austin agreed on most points in WIN's claim.

But what happens if WIN and the Gordon family lodge a higher offer?

Relations between WIN, the Gordons, Sunraysia and Ms Presser are so poor that it is doubtful they can talk to each other, except through lawyers. Can anyone seriously see Ms Presser accepting an offer from Gordon when in the past, similar approaches have been rejected?

There is no requirement for her to accept an offer from Gordon, even if it is higher. Because of 'friends' and associated companies owning shares she speaks for more than 51 per cent of the company.

Ms Presser may sit and not sell. Mr Packer may sit and be locked out. Of course he can offer substantially more and do a deal with WIN on its affiliates agreement to everyone's satisfaction.

That would see things happen very quickly.

About Glenn Dyer

Glenn Dyer has been a finance journalist and TV producer for more than 40 years. He has worked at Maxwell Newton Publications, Queensland Newspapers, AAP, The Australian Financial Review, The Nine Network and Crikey.

View more articles by Glenn Dyer →