Independent to take 15% stake in New Zealand radio operator


INDEPENDENT Newspapers is to take an indirect 15 per cent stake in New Zealand's largest commercial radio operator, Radio New Zealand Commercial.

Two associate companies, Australian Provincial Newspapers and Wilson & Horton, are part of a consortium which, along with the US radio and television company Clear Channel Communications, has bought Radio New Zealand Commercial for NZ$89 million (£40 million).

The three members of the consortium, known as New Zealand Radio Network, have equal shares.

Independent has a 25 per cent stake in Australian Provincial Newspapers (APN) and a 22.1 per cent stake in Wilson & Horton publisher of New Zealand's largest selling paper, the New Zealand Herald.

The family of Independent's chairman, Dr Tony O'Reilly, is also a substantial shareholder in the two companies and will end up with an indirect stake of around 15 per cent in Radio New Zealand Commercial.

APN and Wilson & Horton are funding the purchase out of their own resources and there will be no recourse to Independent Newspapers' balance sheet, according to a spokesman for the group.

Radio New Zealand Commercial operates 41 of New Zealand's 157 commercial radio stations, with a turnover of NZ$75 million.

The stations broadcast a mixture of rock and talk radio. No profit figure was given.

The sale of the network is conditional on the resolution of outstanding litigation between the Maori Council and the New Zealand government.

The Maori Council, which represent the indigenous population, is attempting to block the sale, claiming it infringes their rights under New Zealand's founding Treaty of Waitangi, signed in 1840 between the European settlers and the Maoris.

Some of the network is broadcast across Maori land, explained a spokesman for Independent Newspapers.

The New Zealand High Court last week rejected an injunction to, halt the sale, but the Maori Council may take the case to a higher, court.

The New Zealand government had said it would not proceed with the sale unless it was confident it would win.

A spokesman for Independent Newspapers said yesterday that, if the Maori Council was successful, the New Zealand government would be liable for any compensation.

The New Zealand Radio Network bid succeeded over a rival NZ$86 million bid from the British GWR group.