Murdoch’s $2bn bid to extend media empire

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Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp made a $2bn takeover offer for Australia’s Consolidated Media Holdings yesterday, boosting top shareholder and billionaire James Packer’s war chest as he abandons media in favour of casinos.

Packer, who has built stakes in casinos in Australia, London, Macau and Las Vegas, indicated he would accept the offer in the absence of a higher bid for the pay-TV stakeholder, in which he holds 50.1 per cent.

For News Corp, which also announced sweeping cost and job cuts in Australia yesterday, a successful bid would double its stake in Australia’s dominant pay-TV business Foxtel to 50 per cent, and give it 100 per cent of content provider Fox Sports.

Mr Packer recently took a 10 per cent stake in Sydney casino-owner Echo Entertainment, through his Crown Ltd , amid speculation he wants to use Echo’s licence to build a new casino complex in Sydney to attract more Asian high-rollers.

“It frees up more cash and gives him a bit more flexibility,” said Paul Xiradis, managing director of Ausbil Dexia, which owns stakes in News Corp and Echo. “He’s shown his hand in Echo... but his intentions are not well and truly understood,” he said.

A sale would see Mr Packer all but exit what was once a mighty media empire, built up over decades by his father Kerry Packer and grandfather Sir Frank Packer, apart from a 10 per cent stake in television company Ten Net-work.