March 19, 2015 / 4:36 AM / 4 years ago

News Corp expands stake in Australia's APN media with $104 million deal

SYDNEY/DUBLIN (Reuters) - News Corp increased its stake in Australian media company APN News & Media Ltd, becoming the biggest foreign shareholder in the owner of some of the country’s top rated radio shows with a $104 million share purchase.

Rupert Murdoch, Executive Chairman News Corp and Chairman and CEO 21st Century Fox speaks at the WSJD Live conference in Laguna Beach, California October 29, 2014. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson

Rupert Murdoch’s New York-listed media conglomerate said in a stock market filing on Thursday its Australian unit would increase its stake in APN to 14.99 percent, the maximum shareholding it can hold without requiring regulatory approval.

A person familiar with the matter said News Corp had previously held a 4.9 percent stake in APN, which owns some of Australia’s top-rated radio stations and is the publisher of about 50 regional newspapers in Australia and New Zealand, including the New Zealand Herald.

News Corp’s purchase marked the exit of APN’s longtime major shareholder, Ireland’s Independent News & Media Plc (INM). INM is selling its 18.6 percent stake to repay its debts in full, while Baycliffe, controlled by INM’s largest shareholder Denis O’Brien, is selling its 12.2 percent holding.

INM’s London-listed shares were trading 20 percent higher.

APN said News Corp had bought the stake for 88 cents per share, or a total A$136 million.

News Corp and other newspaper companies are trying to diversify out of print media, which is struggling to generate revenue during the shift to Internet-based content, and APN’s appeal appears to be its radio shows, analysts said.

News Corp does not have significant direct holdings in any Australian radio broadcasters, although Murdoch’s son and News Corp co-chairman Lachlan Murdoch owns radio firm Nova Entertainment.

News Corp said APN had a “high quality portfolio” of media assets”.

APN shares ended up 0.3 percent on Thursday while the broader Australian market closed 1.7 percent higher.

($1 = 1.3011 Australian dollars)

(This version of the story corrects details of shareholders in fourth paragraph)

Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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