SYDNEY, June 24 U.S. specialty media buyout firm Providence Equity Partners LLC is in discussions to buy struggling Australian broadcaster Ten Network Holdings, a source with knowledge of the discussions told Reuters on Tuesday.
A deal would represent an embarrassing exit for some of Australia's most powerful people who have taken large stakes in the broadcaster. However it may also come as a relief to smaller shareholders who have watched their investments struggle amid sluggish advertising revenue for media companies.
Ten counts mining billionaire Gina Rinehart, Australia's richest person, News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch's son Lachlan Murdoch, billionaire casino mogul James Packer, and regional television station owner Bruce Gordon as its four biggest shareholders, according to its latest annual report.
Providence is in preliminary talks with Ten executives about a possible buyout, said the source who was familiar with the situation but not authorised to comment publicly.
The talks were in very early stages and there was no guarantee of a sale, the source added.
A spokesman for Ten did not return calls and a spokesman for Providence declined comment.
Ten has struggled with falling ratings and on June 19 issued a profit warning, saying it expects television revenue to drop by as much as 4.5 percent in the 2014 financial year compared to the previous financial year.
The company's shares were trading flat A$0.252, 34 percent below their year high of A$0.38 reached in January. (Editing by Stephen Coates)