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Fairfax back to 'plan A' as suitors exit

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Fairfax Media CEO Greg Hywood says the company is back on "plan A" and proceeding with spinning off its Domain business after two potential suitors walked away without making a bid.

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Hywood and Fairfax chairman Nick Falloon briefed analysts on Monday morning after private equity groups TPG and Hellman & Friedman did not proceed with formal bids for the media company.

Falloon said while no direct reason was given for TPG’s withdrawal on Sunday, it appeared that “the complication of our business” was too great and TPG did not want to buy all of Fairfax beyond the profitable Domain business.

Hywood says the company has been making progress with preparations to meet its timetable for completing the spin-off by the end of 2017 and has progressed all necessary regulatory approvals.

He will provide an update when the company reports full year results on August 16.

Fairfax also said it expects earnings of between $262 million and $266 million for the full year to June 30, 2017, with overall group revenue down six per cent in the second half of the financial year.

Domain second-half revenue is up 10 per cent, the company said, while Metro Media revenue was down around 12 per cent.

TPG on Sunday confirmed it had pulled out of the race to buy Fairfax, which owns The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, as well as lucrative online property classifieds business Domain, after spending a month examining Fairfax’s books.

TPG and Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan Board made a bid for Fairfax in May, initially offering 95 cents a share and quickly increasing it to $1.20.

Rival suitor San Francisco-based investment fund Hellman & Friedman soon followed with an offer valued at between $1.225 and $1.25 a share, valuing Fairfax at up to $2.87 billion.

The potential suitors had been given until last Friday to lodge a formal offer.

TPG’s decision on Sunday to ditch its planned takeover and no formal offer on the table from Hellman & Friedman means Fairfax can spin off Domain and list it on the ASX.

Shares in Fairfax Media tumbled by more than 12 per cent this morning.

The media group’s shares had plunged 12.73 per cent, or 14 cents, to 96 cents by 1109 AEST.

– AAP

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