NZ's Trade Me says Fairfax Media selling out

WELLINGTON Sun Dec 16, 2012 2:41pm EST

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WELLINGTON Dec 17 (Reuters) - New Zealand online auction and classified business Trade Me Ltd confirmed on Monday that its majority shareholder, Australian publisher Fairfax Media Ltd, is selling its remaining stake.

The company confirmed weekend media reports that debt-laden Fairfax is offering the 51 percent stake in Trade Me.

It did not give a price but newspaper reports had said it was for around A$3.05 a share, which would raise about A$600 million ($635 million) to pay down debt.

Trade Me shares closed on Friday at NZ$4.05 in New Zealand and at A$3.22 in Australia.

Trade Me shares were put on a trading halt until the sale of the shares was completed.

Fairfax, Australia's oldest media firm, publishes 400 metropolitan, regional and suburban newspapers and magazines and owns radio stations.

Under massive pressure to reduce debt, the publisher has sold stakes in profitable online ventures over the past year, as they are considered the easiest parts of the business to sell.

The company slashed the value of its newspaper titles by almost $3 billion in late August as it posted a steep fall in profit and said it saw no early turnaround in the worst advertising conditions in more than 30 years.

Fairfax paid NZ$700 million ($593 million) for Trade Me in 2006. It sold down one third of its stake in an initial public offering in December 2011 and subsequently cut its stake further to 51 percent earlier this year.

Fairfax shares closed at 51 Australian cents on Friday.

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