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article - private equity investor

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ANZ sells out of Lonely Planet

Stewart Oldfield

531 words

12 April 2005

Australian Financial Review




© 2005 Copyright John Fairfax Holdings Limited. www.afr.com Not available for re-distribution.


ANZ Bank's fast-growing private-equity arm has dumped its stake in publishing group Lonely Planet, despite the Melbourne-based publisher saying it was heading for a record profit this year.


ANZ bought the 10 per cent stake in 2002 for about $10 million and is understood to have sold it, last month, to interests associated with adman John Singleton, who already owned 20 per cent.


The sale comes despite the travel-guide empire saying it had fully recovered from the tourism slump that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks and Asian flu crisis.


Lonely Planet generates about $100 million in annual revenues by selling 6 million copies of 600 titles a year and is branching out with overseas television deals and publishing contracts with local companies such as Foster's Group.


The Wheeler family owns 70 per cent of the company, but Mr Wheeler said that his two children, Tashi and Kieran, both in their 20s, were yet to show a strong interest in taking over the business.


He said Lonely Planet was never set up to be a "Murdoch-styled media empire".


"I don't know what will happen long term, but it's still fun. At some point we are going to do something, but what that might be I have no idea," he said.


A float of the business has been suggested but Wheeler said he was suspicious of such a move, citing the experiences of trucking magnate Lindsay Fox and entrepreneur Richard Branson, who have both retreated from operating listed vehicles.


ANZ made its first direct investment in 2000, and had made about 25 investments to date. It has private-equity professionals in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, and Auckland.

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