Shareholders support major Australian media merger

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Shareholders on Monday gave final approval to the merger of television network Nine Entertainment and newspaper publisher Fairfax Media into an Australian media giant to be known only as Nine despite one shareholder’s late bid to stop the deal.

Antony Catalano, a former chief executive of the online real estate listings portal Domain Group which is majority-owned by Fairfax, said he will ask the Federal Court on Nov. 27 to stop the merger.

Catalano, who owns shares in both Domain and Fairfax, wrote to Fairfax chairman Nick Falloon late Sunday offering to buy 19.9 percent of Fairfax and asking for Monday’s Fairfax shareholders meeting to be delayed.

The Fairfax board said in a statement on Monday that it remained unanimously behind the merger with Nine.

“The letter contains no actual proposal that could be considered by Fairfax shareholders as an alternative to the proposed scheme of arrangement with Nine Entertainment,” the statement said.

The merger was supported by 81.5 percent of Fairfax shareholders representing 88.6 percent of shares. The deal had needed the support of at least 60 percent of shareholders representing at least 70 percent of shares.

Falloon said that subject to court approval, the merger would occur on Dec. 7 and the new entity would begin trading on the Australian share market on Dec. 10.

The merger would give Nine shareholders 51.1 percent of the combined entity and make Nine chief executive Hugh Marks leader of the new company.

Fairfax shareholders would own the remaining 48.9 percent of the company, which will become Australia’s largest media player. The Fairfax family name which has been part of the Australian media landscape for 177 years appears set to disappear.

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