The owner of the country's largest newspaper, The New Zealand Herald, says it has begun a strategic review of all of its New Zealand assets.
APN News and Media chief executive officer Brett Chenoweth told the company's annual general meeting in Sydney today that it has hired Deutsche Bank to advise on ''various options to maximise profitability and value for shareholders''.
''In recent months APN has identified a number of opportunities and at the same time received approaches in relation to potential transactions involving some or all of our New Zealand assets,'' Chenoweth told the meeting.
He also told the meeting that APN had increased its stake in daily deals site GrabOne to 100 per cent, buying out founder Shane Bradley.
The company was also in advanced negotiations on a number of additional digital acquisitions and partnerships.
APN was undertaking a major rejuvenation programme in its New Zealand publishing division, to reposition it in an evolving media market, he said.
Key initiatives were a redesign of The New Zealand Herald including going to a compact format Monday to Friday, creating the largest multi-media sales team in New Zealand, further developing the nzherald.co.nz brand, and aligning all North Island dailies to morning delivery and tabloid format.
Chenoweth said substantial progress had been made one year into a five year programme to "reposition APN and turn it into a high growth media company".
"My focus as CEO of APN is to develop and position our media portfolio with a bias towards higher growth media assets," he said.
The past year had provided extraordinary challenges, he said, adding that the company's results were strongly affected by the New Zealand economy "which remains subdued" although cost cutting was helping.
One investment banking and broking source said there was no market chatter on potential APN deals, but "you don't appoint investment bankers without having something there".
But it was unlikely any offers had actually been made, with Deutsche Bank's appointment and the wording of the APN statement that it had "received approaches in relation to potential transactions" preliminary steps to any offer, he said.
Obvious local buyers for any print assets could include Allied Press (which is owned by Julian and Nick Smith and publishes the Otago Daily Times) or, for some assets, the Horton family.
Matthew Horton could not be contacted for comment.
Julian Smith said he had not made any offer, as he wasn't even aware of APN's apparent willingness to consider offers on some or all assets.
Asked whether he would do so now he said: "I'll look at any opportunity down our way, but there's nothing much down our way."
- © Fairfax NZ News