New battle for SCA’s Triple M, Hit and Listnr as ACM’s Catalano and Waislitz pounce

Antony Catalano, chief marketing officer, View (ex Domain CEO)

Regional media group positions itself to be major shareholder in merged audio and publishing giant.

Australian Community Media (ACM) owners Antony Catalano (above) and Alex Waislitz have pitched a proposal to SCA to combine the two businesses.

The two companies together would strengthen SCA’s pitch to advertisers around regional Australia where it operates 99 radio licences. The move would also give ACM some might in metro markets. At present ACM is strongest in Canberra and regional hubs like Newcastle and Wollongong.

Mediaweek reported yesterday on the move as SCA released a statement regarding the approach from ACM.

It was clear something was about to break to people watching the SCA share register. The shareholding of Antony Catalano and associated entities crept higher from just over 8% to just under 11%. At the same time, long-term SCA investor Allan Gray Australia was selling stock. Its shareholding dipped from over 8% to under 5.5%.


SCA noted yesterday this new approach, which has yet to be detailed, is different from what ACM proposed in 2023.

When it rebuffed that proposal, SCA commented last November:

SCA has considered with the assistance of its advisers the ACM Proposal and determined that it would not be in the best interest of SCA and its shareholders to further progress the ACM Proposal.

One of the reasons for this is that the ACM Proposal involves the acquisition by SCA of regional print and digital assets which is not consistent with SCA’s strategy.

“All About Audio” is a key driver of SCA’s strategy, differentiation and growth pathway. SCA’s operating strategies and investments are focused.

At that time SCA was also in the middle of an assessment from ARN and its ambitious plan to reshape the face of Australian FM radio.

Unless ARN can pull an investment rabbit out of the hat, its plans to acquire the Triple M network and Listnr seem finished.

In a note to ACM staff about the proposal on Tuesday, Catalano explained:

Should the proposed transaction proceed it will create a dynamic multimedia company across audio, digital, print and TV. The merged entity would be the number one audio network in Australia and the country’s largest regional media company. It would also include Australia’s leading agricultural media business. It would mean that Alex Waislitz and I would become substantial shareholders of SCA, and reaffirm our commitment to growing our vitally important media company for the benefit of our staff, our customers and all Australians who turn to our media daily as their trusted voice.

The opportunities for consumers and advertisers that this new business will offer are boundless.

ACM content can come to life on SCA’s highly successful streaming product, LiSTNR, as well as on traditional audio and TV. Our advertising teams will be able to provide their customers with truly end-to-end solutions for all of their marketing needs. And, most importantly, the merged entity will greatly improve our marketing capabilities that will drive digital subscription growth, as well as growth in LiSTNR and both organisations’ traditional assets.

It will turbocharge the growth of ACM’s adjacent businesses such as ViewJobs, Farmers’ Finance Australia, FarmBuy and our events division.

We have now entered into a period of due diligence where both parties will review the strategies and financials of each other’s businesses to determine how the proposed merger would complete. This process is expected to be relatively short, with all parties aiming to have a decision by the end of June. ACM has engaged Barrenjoey as its financial advisers and Arnold Block Leibler as its legal advisers.


Australian Community Media sports assets

Not all ACM assets wrapped into SCA

Without detailing what is included, ACM said “a majority of titles, including the agriculture division” are included in the deal.

Staff numbers

Battle-weary staff at SCA might feel better about this potential new future. While detail is thin on the ground at this stage, there seems to be no plan to rip out prime SCA assets like LiSTNR, Triple M or Hit Network. ACM has flagged to staff there could be some redundancies for people where “no suitable redeployment options are available”.

When might this deal happen?

ACM used the term “due diligence” yesterday while SCA said it would “investigate” the proposal. ACM indicated that might be completed in June. After how long it took for SCA to digest what ARN was planning, don’t hold your breath for a quick resolution.

Does ACM really want an ailing regional TV business?

Possibly not, but neither does SCA. Catalano would be up for the challenge. Together, the expanded business might be able to create some synergies that would make sense.

Who would run the new business?

That would depend on lots of things. Battle-hardened John Kelly at SCA has yet had the time to prove himself as CEO after the departure of Grant Blackley. A lot of Kelly’s time has been consumed with fending off ARN. Antony Catalano and Alex Waislitz are boardroom material. Interesting to note that ACM’s quiet achiever is managing director Tony Kendall. He has a long track record in publishing and was also a former CEO of ARN before Ciaran Davis arrived.

See also: SCA approached by Australian Community Media in new acquisition proposal

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