Hellman & Friedman sets stage for bidding war for Australia's Fairfax Media

Fairfax Media appeared to be on the verge of being declared 'on the market' with a new bidder, Hellman & Friedman, entering the auction room last night with an indicative offer that exceeded the offer of San Francisco based private equity firm, TPG Capital.

According to commentators, the development could mark the start of a bidding war between two US private equity groups for the 176-year-old media group.

Hellman & Friedman, which offered a prospective bid of between $1.225 and $1.25 a share was no stranger to Fairfax: it was part of Tourang - a consortium of investors including Canadian media baron Conrad Black and the late Kerry Packer, which bought Fairfax out of receivership in 1992.

Hellman's current emeritus chairman, Brian Powers, was once the chairman of Fairfax and later went on to become Kerry Packer's right-hand man.

According to commentators, the private equity firm's emergence this week was not accidental as the board had been actively canvassing other potential bidders - among them Hellman & Friedman after it came to know of TPG's interest.

TPG, was currently offering $1.20 per share for Fairfax.