Archant's London deal cleared

A £62 million newspaper merger, which regulators said could create a "near monopoly in several areas", now looks set to go ahead.

The Competition Commission has provisionally cleared Archant's December purchase of 27 London weekly newspapers from Independent News and Media. The regulator has invited comments, to be submitted by 3 September, before the ruling can become final.

The Commission had raised concerns that the purchase of some titles, including the Islington Gazette and North London Herald, could create a "near monopoly". Archant already owns other papers in the area such as the Ham & High and the Highbury and Islington Express. The Commission also raised concerns about the purchase of the East London Advertiser and the Ilford & Redbridge Post.

But Competition Commission deputy chairman Peter Freeman said this week: "Even in those areas where Archant's market share would be at its largest, we found there was insufficient evidence to establish that it would have sufficient market power profitably to raise prices by an amount that would cause concern, either across the board or on a targeted basis.

"I would emphasise that this provisional result stems from our analysis of specific markets in London and would not necessarily apply to local newspaper mergers in other parts of the country."

It was the first newspapers mergers judgement since the new regulatory rules of the Communications Act came into force in January.

Archant chief executive John Fry said: "The CC has demonstrated that it has understood the complexity and highly competitive nature of the markets in which local newspapers operate... We are pleased that our new colleagues based in London can now look forward to stability after more than a year of uncertainty."

By Dominic Ponsford

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