News Corp says Fairfax holding is short-term move

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The Independent Online
SYDNEY (Reuter) - News Corp's 2.3 per cent holding in the Australian newspaper group John Fairfax Holdings is passive and short-term, Ken Cowley, executive director, said yesterday.

'It's been a good investment already but it is a passive investment - I don't see it as a long-term investment frankly,' he told a business television programme. Asked what he meant by short-term, Cowley replied: 'A couple of months.'

Rupert Murdoch's media group unveiled the stake early in July, sparking speculation about its intentions for Fairfax, 25 per cent owned by Conrad Black's The Telegraph and 15 per cent by the Australian media magnate Kerry Packer.

When News Corp bought its 14.5 million Fairfax shares, or 2.05 per cent, in mid-June, they were trading at around 2.60 Australian dollars (pounds 1.30). On Friday, the shares closed at Adollars 2.81.

Anti-monopoly and media laws would prevent News Corp, which controls two-thirds of the Australian newpaper market, gaining control of Fairfax.

The government is preventing Black going beyond 25 per cent of Fairfax, while Packer's control of Nine Network Australia Ltd restricts his stake to 15 per cent.