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
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.