age article - marginal

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    I may be slow but I had not read this article.

    PBL to feel ecorp share jump
    December 12 2002
    By Colin Kruger

    Shares in ecorp jumped more than 30 per cent yesterday to 54 cents in response to the company's offer to buy out minority shareholders and return ownership to Australia's richest man, Kerry Packer.

    The rise puts pressure on ecorp's majority shareholder, Mr Packer's Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL), which holds 76 per cent of the group, to pay more to buy back the listed Internet company.

    Yesterday's closing price, on a turnover of more than 10 million shares, represented the first time ecorp shares have topped 50 cents since July last year.

    But the Australian Shareholders Association is leading a push for more money, pointing out that the company is on the verge of profitability and that the 55-cent offer is still well below the listing price paid by the mum-and-dad shareholders who hold the majority of ecorp's publicly traded shares.

    PBL and ecorp will have to convince the 32,000-odd shareholders who hold the remaining 24 per cent of the company to approve the deal before ecorp can return to PBL as a fully owned subsidiary. PBL will not be able to vote on the proposed selective reduction in capital.

    The offer was on the table, an ecorp spokesman said, and would not be changed before the shareholders meeting, with an independent expert report by KPMG to provide information on the fairness of the deal.

    Analysts said the deal was a good one for shareholders in present conditions, and did not expect it to do much for PBL: "It's very marginal at this stage," said Deutsche Bank's Andrew Anagnostellis.

    After selling off its 50 per cent share in eBay Australia New Zealand earlier this year for $US65 million ($A116.2 million), ecorp has two remaining profitable businesses: ticketing agent Ticketek and mortgage broker Wizard. Other properties include its joint venture with Microsoft 9msn, CrownGames, and the online job board Monster.

    The company reported an operating loss of $7.3 million for the 2002 financial year on revenue of $78.3 million, slightly lower than the previous year's $79.2 million when the company recorded a loss of $13.6 million.

    The company is forecasting a profit for the 2004 financial year.

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