COVID-19 has hit Seven West Media harder than most, forcing widespread cost-cutting across the business that has seen shows and staff – both on-air talent and behind the scenes – made redundant.
The late-starting AFL has played heavily on the network’s bottom line, with a number of ad sales people forced out the door.
Too, the Olympics – which were due to start this month – have been moved 12 months and have left a gaping hole in Seven’s coffers.
The broadcaster has already sold Pac Mags to Bauer, although its $40 million price tag will make little inroads into Seven’s debt that’s reported to be hovering at a staggering $570 million in the red – four times the group’s equity value.
Now comes reports on today’s AFR that suggest Seven CEO James Warburton is considering offloading the business’ Seven West Ventures which includes stakes in digital companies Airtasker, Health Engine and SocietyOne.
According to the report, Seven West Ventures could fetch as much as $100 million if it were to find a suitable buyer.
B&T has contacted Seven who declined to comment further.
Advisory firm Grant Samuel has reportedly been tasked to find a buyer with the ideal scenario they take the whole package rather than it be split amongst a number of buyers.
Seven West Ventures was established by former Seven CEO Tim Worner with the aim of investing in young, upcoming digital businesses and using the network’s TV and digital offerings to cross-promote them.
However, all this will do little to dampen industry speculation that Seven West Media is for sale. There’s long been rumours that News Corp was a possible suitor, however, those rumours have subsided in these COVID-19 times.
On top of the Pac Mags’ sale, Seven has also hinted that its West Australian Newspaper division could go to the right buyer, as well as its Seven Studios unit.
It also appears Seven West Media chairman Kerry Stokes is less interested in struggling media businesses and far more keen on the highly profitable mining game (namely West Australian iron ore) and building products.
Last month Stokes showed his hand, acquiring a 10 per cent stake in building materials company Boral in the hope of a coming windfall from government infrastructure spending.
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