London deal 'will go ahead' despite monopoly ruling

Fallon: would not reveal price

he takeover by Newsquest of 13 weekly newspapers in London owned by Independent News & Media is set to go ahead within weeks.

But a question mark hangs over the future of 10 other titles originally involved in the £60m deal.

The Competition Commission said the sale of the eight titles in INM’s Kentish Times division would be against the public interest and would give Newsquest an unfair monopoly in the areas concerned.

It has, however, allowed the sale of 13 papers, including the East London Advertiser, the Islington Gazette series, the Wembley Chronicle series and the Westminster Times.

The commission has asked for further talks with INM and Newsquest concerning the future of the Hornsey Journal and the North London Weekly Herald.

Although it has objected to their sale on competition grounds, it questioned whether separating them from the Islington Gazette could lead to them going out of business, which would be worse in the long term.

INM chief executive Ivan Fallon told Press Gazette: “The commission has excluded eight titles in Kent, which is the least important of the five divisions, and two other very small titles in North London.

“I am more pleased than displeased. We would have liked the whole thing to go through as one – there was a nice spirit in the company as a whole and it was working together more and more as a single unit.”

He said he expected the sale to go through in a matter of weeks. Fallon said he had already received a number of approaches from companies interested in buying the papers that have been excluded from the deal.

Islington Gazette: sale allowed

The deal to transfer 23 London weekly titles from INM to Newsquest was agreed in March. Now that only a proportion of those papers are changing hands, Fallon refused to speculate on what the new price tag was.

Newsquest said in a statement: “Newsquest notes the decision of the Secretary of State for Trade and Industry to permit the transfer of the bulk of the titles owned by Independent News & Media regionals in the London area to Newsquest, but not to permit the transfer of certain other titles.

“Newsquest will be studying the details of the Competition Commission’s report and discussing the position with the Department of Trade and Industry and Independent News & Media. A further announcement will be made as appropriate.”

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear said: “We welcome the fact that the Competition Commission has taken on board some of our concerns about the increased concentration of ownership, but we are disappointed that it has allowed one of the biggest newspaper companies in London to take over yet more titles.”

By Dominic Ponsford

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