Black 'ready to increase stakes in Fairfax when law permits'

Conrad Black is still intent on raising his stake in Fairfax, the Australian media company, despite rampant rumours to the contrary, a senior executive said yesterday.

"We intend to raise our holding when and if we are permitted to do so," Daniel Colson, vice-chairman of the Telegraph group and Mr Black's senior lieutenant, said yesterday. "All these rumours that we are prepared to sell are just not true." Through the Telegraph group, Mr Black holds 25 per cent of Fairfax, the maximum permitted under Australia's media cross- ownership rules. The new government in Canberra has promised to review the restrictions in coming months.

Fairfax has been a takeover target for more than two years. Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation holds a 5 per cent stake, while local media baron Kerry Packer has a 17 per cent holding. All three media companies have said they would be interested in taking control.

Rumours that Mr Black might be prepared to sell were sparked by his recent offer to buy out the minority shareholders of the Telegraph group. As part of the pounds 5.70-a-share offer, Mr Black's Hollinger International said it would share with Telegraph investors any profits from the sale of the Fairfax stake at a price of more than $3 a share.

Fairfax is one of the country's largest media groups.

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