Crikey media writer Glenn Dyer had a chilling final sentence in his coverage of Seven West Media (SWM)’s latest financial report: “That is not sustainable.”
My former Australian Financial Review and Business Sunday colleague had just summarised the Channel 7 owner’s financial position as having net equity of just $20.8 million to support $1.4 billion in liabilities.
And the SWM share price has fallen further since Dyer filed his column last week and The New Daily’s Rod Myer reported on Seven’s inability to land advertisers’ desired younger audiences.
SWM shares dropped 21 per cent to 20.5 cents on the day it reported its half-year results. And they have continued to weaken.
They were down to 18.2 cents on Monday morning, compared with 55 cents one year ago, $1.40 five years ago, and starting the last decade around $7. Ouch.
After extraordinary items including writing down the carrying value of its television licences, SWM reported a bottom-line loss of $67 million for the December half-year.
Its underlying profit excluding write-downs and after tax fell 22.5 per cent to $69 million.
Its operating cash flow before interest and tax plunged 41 per cent to $52 million.
The share price says the market expects there is worse to come and has little faith in management.
The word is that controlling shareholder Kerry Stokes won’t kick in any more money.
In which case, the Seven Network looks like going the way of Channel 10 – who wants to buy it?
Dyer says Seven is in talks to sell its production unit to ITV. (The company sold its radio interests last year and is trying to unload its Pacific Magazines business.)
That would basically leave it with a TV network rump at a time when television licences are worth steadily less.
Dyer speculates that ITV could end up buying the lot if the price keeps falling under the weight of a half a billion in debt and falling profits.
Another possibility would be Comcast/NBC.
In either case, it would represent another step along the strange evolution of Australian media to have two of its three national commercial networks foreign owned.
A strange new world
That’s not the only media oddity around.
It’s only a minor sidebar, but it was strange to see the newspapers formerly known as Fairfax devoting space this morning to a freelancer’s rather pointless spray about Network Ten allegedly drifting “to the left of The Guardian“.
The spray basically consisted of attacking The Project for not having higher ratings and Waleed Aly for not going easy on Scott Morrison in an interview.
There was also an ad hominem whack at Ten’s political editor, Peter van Onselen, complete with anonymous sourcing.
Given that the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age are now owned by Nine, it’s not a good look to see the editorial pages devoted to criticising one of the parent’s competitors without good reason.
Maybe for balance, the SMH and Age will run a piece on Nine drifting to the right of Sky News, concentrating on Chris Uhlmann and Amanda Vanstone.