June 26, 2017 / 8:38 AM / 2 years ago

Ten Network gains Australian tycoons' support, expressions of interest

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Three Australian business magnates plan to financially support Ten Network Holdings TEN.AX until it finds a buyer, the TV broadcaster’s administrator said, adding that there had been “quite a number” of expressions of interest from potential acquirers.

Mark Korda, lead administrator for Australia's third-largest free-to-air television network, Network 10, speaks during a press conference after administrators held the first meeting for creditors of the media company in Sydney, Australia, June 26, 2017. REUTERS/Jason Reed

Potential buyers included offshore entities, administrator Mark Korda of KordaMentha told reporters after a creditors meeting on Monday, although he declined to name interested parties.

News Corp NSWA.O Co-Chairman Lachlan Murdoch, regional TV boss Bruce Gordon and Crown Resorts’ (CWN.AX) James Packer own a combined 29.7 percent of the struggling free-to-air broadcaster and their support is essential if it is to survive a savage audience downturn which has hammered advertising sales.

While administrators were called in this month after Murdoch and Gordon declined to extend support for a A$200 million ($152 million) debt facility past 2017, the move was widely seen as a necessary step to help it re-negotiate costly content licensing fees with U.S. production studios.

The three tycoons now plan to put a financing facility in place to ensure that Ten has sufficient cash to continue to operate, Korda said.

“It will be all three at the present time, and the limit is just being worked on at the moment,” he added.

Murdoch and Gordon also said earlier this month that they had formed an agreement to restructure Ten.

Australia’s broadcasters, and perpetual ratings laggard Ten in particular, have suffered large losses as advertisers follow viewers onto streaming services like Netflix (NFLX.O) and Amazon.com Inc’s (AMZN.O) Amazon Prime.

Ten shares have been suspended from trading since the company called in administrators on June 14. The company had a market capitalization of A$58 million at its last traded price, a fraction of its value a few years earlier.

The Australian Senate will debate a government bill later this year aimed at making it easier for media companies to buy each other. Under current laws, Murdoch and Gordon would likely face regulatory hurdles if they tried to buy Ten because they own other media assets.

On Monday, Korda said Ten can continue as a viable company regardless of how the country’s parliament votes on relaxing media ownership laws.

($1 = 1.3182 Australian dollars)

Reporting by Byron Kaye; Editing by Edwina Gibbs

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