Just days after News Corp made a $2Bn offer to buy James Packer’s Consolidated Media Holdings, the Oz regulator has revealed that a rival bid may be afoot. Billionaire Kerry Stokes’ Seven Group Holdings, which currently owns 24% of CMH, is “actively considering acquiring further shares” in the company, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said. It added that Seven asked the commission “to review a proposal to buy all of the shares in CMH which it does not currently own.” Earlier this week, Packer welcomed News Corp’s bid which would double Rupert Murdoch’s holdings in pay-TV platform Foxtel and give it full ownership of Fox Sports Australia. At the same time, Stokes’ Seven said it would review the News Corp proposal and consider its options. SNL Kagan analyst Derek Baine tells Deadline that such a move by Stokes is not a surprise as “they’ve always been competitive.” He estimates that a bid from Seven could drive the price of CMH higher. “Even if Murdoch ends up with it, it does give some people joy to get the price up and make him bid up.” Sitting on $10.7Bn in cash, News Corp has been implementing COO Chase Carey’s strategy to “either own and operate or monetize” its assets. Among purchases it’s made since the company reluctantly aborted the BSkyB acquisition last year, is the recent buyout of Disney’s 50% stake in ESPN Star Sports. Analysts say News Corp’s purchase of CMH could boost earnings by 2%. If Stokes’ and Seven’s move is serious, however, it could set the stage for a battle of the billionaires.
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