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APN News & Media halted for selldown amid speculation O'Brien, INM exiting

APN News & Media, which last year bundled its New Zealand assets into a separate vehicle for a potential listing, had its stock halted from trading pending a potential selldown, amid speculation investor Dennis O'Brien and Irish media group Independent News & Media are exiting the company.

The Sydney-based media group counts fund manager Allan Gray Australia as its biggest shareholder, followed by O'Brien's Baycliffe and Independent News & Media (Australia). The Australian Financial Review's Street Talk column said Credit Suisse is handling a block trade of A$300 million of APN stock, of which INM is selling about A$180 million worth and Baycliffe about A$117 million, the report said.

Allan Gray this month disclosed it had reduced its holding in APN from 17.7 percent, which it said just reflected portfolio management after the share gained. APN's ASX-listed shares have climbed 52 percent in the past 12 months, outpacing an 11 percent gain in the S&P/ASX 200 Index. The shares last traded at about 94 Australian cents before being halted.

Allan Gray helped force a boardroom shakeout at APN News & Media in 2013 and had also previously reduced its stake in Fairfax Media.

Last month APN put off the public share float for its newly consolidated kiwi business, NZME, which holds assets including The New Zealand Herald, The Radio Network and GrabOne.