Newscom rivals prepare for battle

The Competition Commission’s clearance of all three bids for Newscom is likely to unleash a bidding war.

The Competition Commission’s clearance of all three bids for

Newscom is likely to unleash a bidding war.



Analysts expect the successful bidder will have to pay a large premium

to the regional publisher’s pounds 375 million market valuation. One

undisclosed cash bid was rejected before the commission’s referral.



Newscom has now put a formal bidding procedure in place and the three

rivals are expected to make their move following the release of

Newscom’s first quarter results on 19 April.



Johnston Press chief executive Tim Bowdler confirmed: ’We are talking to

our advisers and we’ll decide what to do in due course.’ Trinity Mirror

group managing director Mike Masters said the ball was in Newscom’s

court and urged the company to provide all relevant information to the

bidders.



Meanwhile, Bowdler has called for a radical overhaul of the regulations

covering regional newspaper ownership. Speaking at a Newspaper Society

forum last week, Bowdler claimed the regional press was facing the

widest range of competition and yet was also the most regulated medium.

Not only was the industry disadvantaged against UK competitors but

foreign media faced no such regulatory hurdles, he said.



Bowdler also pointed out that while US publisher Gannett had been

allowed to acquire Newsquest with ease, Johnston Press had to seek

approval to buy the Arbroath Herald.



’That deal involved a combined circulation of 10,000 copies and yet

AOL/Time Warner or even Fidel Castro could buy Johnston Press without

any intervention,’ he commented.



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