Heavyweight Investor Tells Fairfax To Shut Weekday Papers “Sooner Rather Than Later”

Heavyweight Investor Tells Fairfax To Shut Weekday Papers “Sooner Rather Than Later”

On Monday, speculation of the downfall of Fairfax’s weekday newspapers was confirmed via a leaked email from one of the publisher’s executives, and today things don’t look much better, with billionaire investor Alex Waislitz urging them on.

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According to an article from The Australian, Waislitz is spurring chief executive Greg Hywood on and shut weekday print editions such as SMH and The Age sooner rather than later.

Fairfax will be allegedly turning the bulk of its focus onto its weekend papers, which will be “skewed towards lifestyle content and have multiple sections such as travel, food, entertainment etc”, labelling the Monday to Friday print cycle as “obsolete”.

Waislitz, via The Oz, urger Hywood to fast track the process, saying, “The strategic steps just announced will hopefully pave the way for the move to full digital publication on weekdays — something which is in the best interests of the group and its shareholders in this digital age and is therefore something which should happen sooner rather than later and with as short a transition period as possible”.

Fairfax this week announced a massive $1 billion in writedowns to its Australian Metro Media business, which features The Australian Financial Review along with its rural and New Zealand papers.

Hywood told investors in May that the company would change the publishing model for its metropolitan titles in future years, with fewer print editions and a 24/7 digital publishing focus.

And despite speculation that Fairfax will also flog its real estate service Domain, with Hywood telling the ASX, “Domain makes a significant earnings contribution and remains an integral and growing part of Fairfax. We have no plans for that to change that”.

“This is still a group with ­approximately $300 million in EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) and Domain contributes a significant portion of that, so it makes sense to realign the business to enable for better transparency and valuation of Domain,” Waislitz told The Oz.

According to Waislitz, Fairfax is in a net-cash position, and per the Oz, Waislitz has again encouraged the company to launch a share buyback, which he reckons could snag a pricetag of around $100 million.

“The balance sheet remains strong, which means the group should be able to at least maintain dividends, launch another share buyback or both,’’ he said.