Shares of the parent company of the ailing Age newspaper, Fairfax Media, have crashed to their lowest level in two years as the market increasingly recognises that its Melbourne and Sydney metropolitan newspaper assets are no longer financially viable and could sink the entire group if not cut loose.
Speculation has been rife in Melbourne that people like Ron Walker, the former Liberal federal treasurer and one-time Lord Mayor of Melbourne, could assemble a group of Melbourne conservatives who could re-orient the newspaper to be more broadly representative of all of Victoria and possibly be willing to operate it on a not-for-profit do-gooder basis, as some say The Australian is, supported by News Corporation’s huge profits elsewhere. It’s a shame the great Australian company doesn’t get more credit for supporting journalism as it does.
Others say Fairfax will be keen to hang on to the brand for use online. Management are thought to be very happy with their swish-looking iPad app and think the Age’s web property does well. The print edition prompts fewer smiles.
Shares in newspaper publisher Fairfax Media have fallen to a two-year low, cementing its position as the ASX 100’s worst performer.
The fall follows investor concerns about the threat of more media regulation and lost advertising dollars from struggling retailers.
Fairfax lost as much as 10 per cent to 85.5 cents on Thursday, before closing down four cents, or 4.21 per cent, at 91 cents, a 27-month low.
85 cents a share is the lowest stock has ever traded in the modern era. Look for some big decisions on asset sales – the NZ site trademe and the radio talk stations – which will be used principally to pay down the company’s huge debt and to buy time before making the really hard decisions about what to do with The Age print edition.