Four billionaires – Gina Rinehart, James Packer, Lachlan Murdoch and Bruce Gordon – own 42 per cent of Ten Network Holdings and the holders of 33 per cent of the shares backed the decision to launch a second big balance sheet-propping share issue this year, this time at 20¢ a share, a steep discount of almost 40 per cent to Ten's last trading price.
Who's missing? It's believed that Gina Rinehart, who owns 10 per cent, is the odd one out. Packer, Murdoch and Gordon pre-committed to the issue, and encouraged Ten to do what was needed to shore up its balance sheet, it is suggested, but on Thursday, as Ten announced its decision to raise about $230 million in an issue of four shares for every five held, Rinehart's intentions were still not known.
Like the other shareholders she has until mid-afternoon on Friday to decide whether to participate fully or partly, or not to take up the offer, a decision which would dilute her stake to about 5.6 per cent. Any shares not taken up by existing shareholders will be offered to other investors.
It will be very interesting to see what she decides. A decision not to support the issue and allow her stake to be diluted would pose obvious questions about her continued tenure on the board but she may see Ten as a distraction now – and a costly one at that. Her losses since she bought in in 2010 are estimated at about $140 million, with total losses for the four billionaires close to $600 million.
It's not as if Rinehart doesn't have other things to do. She's just begun serious negotiations for the funding of her biggest iron ore venture, the $10 billion Roy Hill mine, and the degree of difficulty for that job has ramped up this year as the iron price has fallen and gyrated.
Her absence from the pre-commitment list could be a sign that Ten's Club of Four is on its way to becoming a threesome.