The proposed joint venture that will consolidate production for the two media groups at News UK’s Broxbourne, Knowsley and Eurocentral facilities was confirmed at the beginning of October last year.
Earlier this week DMG Media issued HR1 advanced notification of redundancy notices to employees at Thurrock (45 days) and a 30 day notice at the smaller Dinnington site in South Yorkshire.
The number of employees at risk of redundancy has not been confirmed but is believed to be around 270 according to industry sources.
Yesterday (1 February) the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) officially launched a merger inquiry into the “anticipated joint venture between Daily Mail and General Holdings Limited and News Corp UK & Ireland Limited in respect of their newspaper printing activities in Great Britain”.
”The CMA is considering whether it is or may be the case that this transaction, if carried into effect, will result in the creation of a relevant merger situation under the merger provisions of the Enterprise Act 2002 and, if so, whether the creation of that situation may be expected to result in a substantial lessening of competition within any market or markets in the United Kingdom for goods or services.”
The invitation to comment runs until 15 February, with an expected deadline of 28 March for the CMA’s phase one decision.
The proposed ‘NewCo’ printing joint venture has already gained approval from the Irish equivalent of the CMA and the Irish government.
DMG's Carn site in Northern Ireland is not part of the joint venture plan and is unaffected.
A source close to the situation told Printweek that workers at Thurrock and Dinnington had been offered a redundancy package that includes payment for their contracted minimum notice period plus two weeks’ payment per year of employment – uncapped.
Workers who will be made redundant have also been offered a £10,000 retention bonus to maintain production until such a time as it is no longer required at those plants.
The Thurrock and Dinnington employees can also apply for a number of new roles – on new contracts and rates of pay – that will be created at the three News UK plants as they step up production.
The number of new jobs that will be available, pending CMA approval, has not been confirmed.
A News UK spokesperson commented: "We can confirm that the Competition and Markets Authority has begun its formal review of our proposed joint venture with DMG. The proposed joint venture would see the creation of a new company which would combine DMG and News UK’s print operations. We believe this would help improve the efficiency of News UK and DMG Media’s print operations and establish a sustainable business model for the future of newspaper printing in the UK. News UK and DMG’s print operations will continue to run independently during the review.”
DMG Media also issued a statement yesterday, that said: “Today the UK Competition and Markets Authority announced that it will commence its formal review of the proposed joint venture between dmg media and News UK to combine its newspaper printing operations.
“As this is subject to ongoing regulatory review, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
DMG Media’s Dinnington operation runs three triple-width Manroland Colorman presses, while Thurrock in Essex is an outlier in terms of its production setup and runs Koenig & Bauer Courier flexo newspaper presses, which are also used to print the Mail’s Saturday Weekend supplement.
It’s not currently clear what the Newco joint venture will do about supplement and magazine printing, and whether, if approved, the business will look to bring more of that type of work in-house in the future.