Culture secretary green-lights Reach/N&S merger

By Rhys Handley, Friday 22 June 2018

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Reach’s near-£200m acquisition of Northern & Shell’s publishing assets has been approved by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport.

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Hancock: "No substantial lessening of competition in any market"

Culture secretary Matt Hancock announced on Wednesday (20 June) that there will be no further public interest or competition probes into the merger of Trinity Mirror and Northern & Shell, which has collectively rebranded under the Reach name following Trinity’s AGM in early May.

In reports this month, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) and Ofcom both found that the merger would not disturb the “broad range of political perspectives“ across the UK media market, adding that Reach was a relatively “small player”. As a result, Hancock said the merger would not require a second phase of investigation.

Had more investigations gone ahead, it would have seen the CMA spend a six-month period gathering further evidence. The CMA issued a “hold separate” order to Trinity Mirror and Northern & Shell in March ahead of its initial investigation in April.

Hancock said: “I received the CMA and Ofcom reports on Thursday 31 May and have today published these on the government website. I accept the CMA’s findings that while it is, or may be, the case that a relevant merger situation has been created, the merger does not give rise to a realistic prospect of a substantial lessening of competition in any market.

“I have also accepted Ofcom’s conclusions that the merger does not raise concerns in relation to plurality of views, nor does it raise concerns in relation to free expression of opinion in newspapers.

“In light of this and having considered representations submitted by interested parties in response to the PIIN (Public Interest Intervention Notice), I have written to the parties today confirming my decision not to refer the merger for a Phase 2 investigation.”

The “hold separate” order has now been lifted in light of Hancock’s announcement.

Reach’s print titles include the Daily Mirror, Sunday Mirror and Sunday People alongside a broad portfolio of local newspapers. Northern & Shell’s acquisition will add the Daily Express newspaper and Star, OK! and New! magazines to its roster.

“We welcome today's decision,” said Reach chief executive Simon Fox. “Today we are two successful separate news organisations, but together we will be stronger and better able to compete and adapt to the challenging conditions in which we operate.”

The group’s shares currently stand at 81.6p each on the London Stock Exchange, having gone up by 2.26% this morning (22 June).

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