Burgeoning Australian new media group buys Clearview

Auckland corporate Web developer Clearview Communications has been scooped up by listed Australian Internet media company, LibertyOne - adding to a growing portfolio which already includes Excite Asia-Pacific and various Web solutions and content businesses.

Auckland corporate Web developer Clearview Communications has been scooped up by listed Australian Internet media company, LibertyOne.

LibertyOne, which is backed by the Fairfax newspaper group (publishers of the Australian Financial Review, Sydney Morning Herald and others) and floated on the Australia stock exchange in late 1998has been in expansion mode this year.

It jointly owns Excite Asia Pacific along with Excite itself and recently launched an Australian version of the Excite Web portal, promising to launch the portal in New Zeakand and Singapore.

LibertyOne also owns the digital music distributor Satellite Music Australia, interests in sports betting and personality sports Websites and two other Web solutions companies - Internet Reach Group and Zivo, which it wholly acquired in April after first establishing a relationship with a share swap last year.

Zivo came into the New Zealand market last year billing itself as a corporate specialist, but has achieved relatively little traction - especially relative to Clearview, whose portfolio includes Lion Nathan, Deloitte and online newspaper development for both National Business Review and the New Zealand Herald.

Clearview managing director Ken Westlake says his company has been in negotiation with LibertyOne since April.

"I think they realised that taking the organic growth route [with Zivo] would just have taken too long to meet their objectives. So they decided to take the quick route - and acquire market share rather than trying to grow it."

Westlake says the operations of Clearview, ZIVO and IRG are "complementary".

He says the resources of its new owner will allow Clearview to pursue long-held plans to expand into strategic Web marketing and communications. It also raises opens up the larger Australian market.

LibertyOne Chief Executive Warren Lee - says the acquisition of Clearview is "another significant step" in LibertyOne's plans to expand its web development and consultancy services throughout the Asia Pacific region.

"Clearview is a particularly important acquisition as it is the market leader in New Zealand with a first class client base, an excellent brand and a strong reputation across most industries and the public sector," says Lee.

"It is also well established, having generated solid revenues and good margins since opening its doors in 1995."

Clearview currently employs more than 50 people in Auckjland and Wellington and generates annual revenues in excess of NZ$5 million.

Westlake and Bob Grey, who founded the company, owned about 80% of its shares between them, with the remainder held by two minority shareholders and the three senior staff, the beneficiaries of a fledgling staff shareholding programme

The purchase price has not been revealed.

Meanwhile, as the Herald advertises for a second week for as many as 30 new staff for its online business, Westlake says Clearview is likely to continue to have some relationship with the newspaper.

"The Herald have always had an in-house support strategy. We were well aware of that. Our relationship with the Herald will continue very much in the context of high-level technical support, continuing to work on developments with them. They don't need an organisation like us for operational support and lower-level development."

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