Fairfax in immediate ASX trading halt fuelling Domain spin-off rumours

Lindsay Bennett
By Lindsay Bennett | 21 February 2017

Fairfax Media has requested a trading halt sparking more speculation Fairfax will spin-off its real estate business Domain.

The news means the business wishes to temporarily suspend trading in anticipation of a news announcement in relation to Domain – due at its half yearly financial results tomorrow.

AdNews understands Fairfax Media is set to spin-off Domain into a separately listed venture run by Domain boss Antony Catalano.

Fairfax Media has previously declined to comment on speculation that it is considering a demerger of its Domain property listings business.

However since Catalano was put at the helm of Domain three years ago, his moves indicate he is moving towards operating Domain as a separate entity - creating a sales team outside of Fairfax and recently moving into its own offices in Pyrmont.

The AFR has reported Domain could be worth up to $2 billion as a separately listed entity. This figure could increase if Domain splits out from Fairfax, as AdNews understands some investors hold back from investing in the real estate business due to its links to Fairfax's challenged print assets. 

Sources suggest that Fairfax would retain a stake of 60-70%, while there is also speculation that a sale of the entire Fairfax business is under consideration.

A media exec close to Fairfax says in this media climate it would be negligent of media companies not be considering their options.

Nine and Fairfax already have a joint venture with streaming-service Stan, and there has been long-standing speculation about further consolidation as part of the broader debate about media ownership laws. 

Fairfax has strongly refuted reports that future of Fairfax CEO Greg Hywood is uncertain. Catalano has been tipped for the top job, but previously denied the rumour he would replace Hywood.

At the end of 2016, Fairfax split out Domain's financial results from its less-profitable Australia Metro Media division to create a clearer picture of how much revenue the business makes. At the time, Fairfax denied it would sell off Domain.

AdNews has approach both Domain and Fairfax for comment.

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