Melbourne, Apr.17 : Australia's Fairfax Media is reportedly seeking a foothold in India's burgeoning media sector through a stake in national English-language newspaper The Hindu.
Weekly magazine Business India and business daily Mint were quoted by The Australian as saying that Fairfax has been having discussions with The Hindu's owners, Kasturi and Sons.
Media analysts had valued the group at 26 billion to 28 billion rupees (700 to 755million dollars), the Mint said.
On that valuation, a 26 per cent shareholding, the maximum allowed under India's foreign investment laws for the print media, would cost about 6.8billion to 7.3 billion rupees.
Fairfax has been pursuing an aggressive growth strategy, last year spending 3.3 billion dollars acquiring Rural Press and the radio and television production assets of Southern Cross Broadcasting.
Fairfax spokesman Bruce Wolpe said the report was "entirely speculative".
"We have no comment on it," he said. "We meet with media players worldwide and don't discuss those conversations with the media."
Fairfax chairman Ron Walker did not return a phone call.
Mint quoted Kasturi joint managing director N. Murali as saying: "These are speculations."
But the newspaper added: "Insiders close to Kasturi's shareholders and some media analysts said the discussions are indeed on, and the senior executives of the company, which also publishes The Hindu Business Line, have been visiting Australia at regular intervals."
Based in Chennai, The Hindu was founded 130 years ago and has been owned by the Kasturi family since 1905.
One of India's three national English-language papers, along with The Times of India and the Hindustan Times, it sells 1.2million copies a day and has a readership of about four million, according to its website.
India is the world's second largest newspaper market after China, with about 78 million copies sold daily, reaching more than 220 million people. In the four years to 2006, circulation growth was 54 per cent.
Foreign media investors already in India include News Corporation (which owns Star TV India and satellite service Tata Sky, and is also publisher of The Australian); the Pearson Group (26 per cent of national business newspaper Business Standard); and Tony O'Reilly's Independent News and Media (21 per cent of the JPL group, publisher of the Hindi-language newspaper Dainik Jagran).
US private equity fund Blackstone is seeking approval for a US275 million dollars bid for a 26 per cent stake in Hyderabad-based print and TV group Ushodaya Enterprises.